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Minnesota Legislature

Reimbursing volunteers

Published (3/6/2009)
By Mike Cook
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The state’s nationally recognized Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program relies heavily on volunteers to support reintegration of military men and women. However, the Department of Military Affairs, does not have the necessary state authority to accept volunteer services.

Sponsored by Rep. Al Doty (DFL-Royalton), HF905 would provide a process to accept volunteers and reimburse them for travel expenses.

Approved Feb. 27 by the House Veterans Affairs Division and March 4 by the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee, it now awaits action by the House Finance Committee.

Col. Eric Ahlness, director of government relations for the Minnesota National Guard, assuaged division members that the department was not substituting full- or part-time staff with volunteers.

“We are not going to use this in any way to replace full-time or part-time employees,” Ahlness said. “We are prohibited from doing that by federal statute, as well as with existing protections within our union agreements.” Additionally, he said the bill would provide a legal protection for volunteers injured during their service to the department.

A companion, SF858, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Fobbe (DFL-Zimmerman), awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Veterans Budget and Policy Division.

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