HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signs the SPEED Act, during a ceremony held at the Massachusetts National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, Oct. 25, 2022. In attendance were Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, the Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, members of the Massachusetts State Legislature and members of the Massachusetts National Guard.
“I do want to say, how much we appreciate the work that so many have put in to continue to make Massachusetts the very best state for military members and their families,” said Gov. Baker. “We still remain the number one state in the country in terms of Veteran’s services and supports for men and women in uniform and their families. This SPEED Act really takes it to a whole new level.”
Highlights of the legislation include:
Military spouse licensure portability: requires the Division of Occupational Licensure, the Department of Public Health, and Massachusetts Boards of Registration to accept a military spouse’s application for licensure or notify them of what criteria they were not able to meet within 30 days of the application.
Expedited military spouse teacher licenses: establishes a military spouse certificate to be issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner to military spouse teachers that meet certain requirements.
School enrollment for military children: allows military families to register and enroll in a school district when a service member first receives their relocation order, waiving the proof of residency requirement at the time of registration. This provision also allows military children who are transferring mid-semester to enroll in and attend one of the Commonwealth’s virtual schools.
Purple Star campus designation: establishes the Purple Star Campus Program, to be administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to designate schools that demonstrate a commitment to students and families of service members.
In-state tuition continuity for military-connected college students: ensures that a member of the military stationed in the Commonwealth, their spouse, or their children are deemed an in-state resident after their acceptance at one of the state’s higher education institutions.
Civilian licensure and certification information: directs the Commissioner of Veterans’ Services to make information on civilian licensure and certification opportunities available to service members and veterans and provide information on military education and skills to relevant agencies.
Open Burn Pit Registry:
Directs the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH), in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services and the Adjutant General of the National Guard, to develop educational materials and an informational pamphlet on the health impacts of open burn pits and other airborne hazards during overseas deployment and information on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to be distributed to health care providers, veterans’ service offices and organizations, and service members and veterans.
Directs the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of DPH and the Adjutant General, to contact all members of the Armed Forces, National Guard and veterans to register for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.
Requires the Adjutant General to request that the periodic health assessment for National Guard members determine whether the member is eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry and if eligible, the member register for the Registry.
Massachusetts National Guard family education program: establishes a Massachusetts National Guard Family Education Program to allow National Guard members to transfer their unused education benefits under the National Guard Education Assistance Program to their dependents.
Slot machines at veterans’ organizations commission: establishes a commission to study and report on limited slot machine licenses for veteran organizations.
Veteran Mentor Program: enables the UMass system, including UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell, Bridgewater State University, and Salem State University to establish veteran mentoring pilot programs to assist veterans attending their institutions adjust to civilian life.
Property tax exemption clarification: prohibits a city or town from requesting further evidence from a disabled veteran in subsequent tax years after the veteran has been granted a property tax exemption by the assessor of that town, unless the veteran’s disability rating determined by the VA is reduced.
Founding anniversaries of U.S. Armed Forces: requires the Governor to set aside the founding date anniversaries of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Massachusetts National Guard.
Medal of Fidelity: establishes the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity to be presented to the next of kin of a service member or veteran who died as a result of service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder service-connected condition resulting from a traumatic brain injury, or a service-connected disease, condition or injury related to exposure to harmful toxin, herbicides, agents, or materials.
Deborah Sampson Memorial Commission: establishes a commission to determine a location and create a memorial for Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts resident who disguised herself as a man in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Funeral and burial benefits: requires funeral directors and their staffs to provide information on burial and funeral benefits for veterans.
Tax credit for employment of National Guard members: establishes a tax credit for businesses that employ members of the National Guard.
“This was a giant team effort,” said Maj. Gen. Keefe. “Not just between the Governor’s office, the Senate and the House, but the executive offices and the folks that played a role in this, really ended up becoming, to the best of my knowledge, the most inclusive and probably the largest military veterans and family bill, I would say -- since the Yankee Division came back from World War I.”