Due to deteriorating weather conditions and Gov. Kay Ivey’s decision to close state government offices all day Wednesday and a half-day on Thursday, the Legislature’s traditional work week was truncated, but important business was still able to be conducted.
Alabama House Republicans led the chamber in “Military and Veterans Day” on Tuesday, January 16, by honoring the state’s living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is our nation’s highest award for valor, and stacking the agenda with bills designed to benefit those who have served or are currently serving in our nation’s armed forces.
Resolutions were presented to the state’s three living CMoH recipients, two of whom were in attendance.
Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins of Opelika, a retired command master sergeant in the U.S. Army, participated in the ceremony. While risking his life to save others and leading a group of U.S. troops to eventual rescue by helicopter during the Battle of A Shau, Adkins sustained 18 different gunshot, mortar, and grenade shrapnel wounds to his body while singlehandedly eradicating between 135 and 175 enemy combatants.
Medal of Honor recipient Mike Rose of Huntsville, a retired Army captain, also attended the State House ceremony and had received his CMoH for actions deep behind enemy lines in Laos in 1970. Surrounded by North Vietnamese combatants and suffering crippling shrapnel wounds to his back and legs, Rose repeatedly ran into enemy fire to retrieve, shield, and treat his wounded colleagues. When the evacuation helicopter he was riding in suffered damage and crashed, Rose, who was dazed and severely hurt, crawled into the flaming wreckage to drag out survivors while knowing the chopper could explode at any moment.
Medal of Honor recipient Mike Sprayberry of Titus, a retired Army colonel, was out of the country and could not attend the ceremony. He received the CMoH for leading a night patrol to rescue a group of soldiers that had become separated from their company in the jungle of Vietnam. When his patrol began taking fire, Sprayberry crawled within range and destroyed several occupied enemy bunkers with hand grenades, singlehandedly killed 12 enemy soldiers with small weapons fire, and eliminated two machine gun nests. He also successfully saved the lives of his trapped colleagues.
The House also passed four pieces of legislation that benefit current and former military personnel and are sponsored by members of the House Republican Caucus.
House Bill 58 is the Parks for Patriots Act of 2018, which is sponsored by State Rep. Dickie Drake (R – Leeds). The bill provides free, year-round admission to all Alabama state parks for all active military personnel and veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves.
House Bill 83 is the Veterans Employment Act, which is sponsored by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper). It provides a $2,000 tax credit to small businesses for each currently unemployed, honorably discharged veteran that they hire. The bill would ensure that the veterans covered by this incentive program would be hired for full-time jobs and earn at least $14 per hour. Because the program is modeled after the “pay as you go” method of awarding economic incentives, it would have no negative fiscal impact on the budget.
House Bill 88, which is also sponsored by State Rep. Dickie Drake (R – Leeds), confers “preferred vendor” status to veteran-owned businesses with regards to state purchasing. In order to be considered “veteran-owned,” a business must be at least 50% owned by an individual who was honorably discharged after serving at least four years in the armed forces or at least 180 days of continual federal service while in the National Guard. When the state receives matching bids for goods, the “preferred vendor” status may be used to determine which entity is awarded the business.
House Bill 92, which is sponsored by State Rep. Barry Moore (R – Enterprise), allows law enforcement personnel the discretion to ticket vehicles that wrongly park in spaces specifically reserved for Purple Heart recipients. Only vehicles with a state-issued Purple Heart distinctive license plate or a placard provided by the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs are allowed to park in designated “Wounded Warrior” spaces.