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Interim bills address tuition, license plates for veterans

Jun 13, 2013 - McClatchy Newspapers

CHEYENNE -- A legislative panel agreed to revisit a bill that would allow out-of-state veterans pay in-state tuition at the University of Wyoming or a Wyoming community college.

The proposal passed unanimously out of the state House of Representatives during the past legislative session. But it died when it was not put to a vote in the Senate due to time constraints.

The Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee voted Monday to have legislative staff draft a new version of the bill.

Rep. Dave Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, who co-chairs the committee, said the lawmakers will then decide during their next meeting in September if they will sponsor it as a committee bill for the 2014 session.

The measure would only apply to non-resident veterans who show intent of becoming a Wyoming resident, such as by obtaining a Wyoming voter registration card or driver's license.

The Wyoming Veterans Commission asked that the bill be reintroduced in 2014.

The commission's director, Larry Barttelbort, said it currently takes a full year for someone to establish residency in the state.

By forgoing this requirement for out-of-state veterans, he said the state would be able to better attract people who want to either stay in Wyoming after serving here or move here after their discharge.

The federal GI bill pays for veterans' in-state tuition, but it requires veterans going to college out of state to pay the difference between the in-state and out-of-state rate.

This difference would be close to $10,000 a year at UW, since Wyoming residents pay $4,404 for tuition and fees and non-residents pay $14,124, according to the university's website.

Barttelbort said UW and community college representatives testified during the session that it would be a "cost wash," or even a benefit to the state.

"When they come to school with their GI bill, the offset of the dollars they would be investing in their community offset the changes from resident to non-resident tuition," he said. "These veterans are very savvy about shopping where they want to go to school to determine the best place to use their money."

The legislative committee also voted to study a potential bill affecting Gold Star license plates.

The special plates are offered to any parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling or child of an armed forces member who died while in service or who died as a result of the service.

But some have requested a change to tighten the requirement to restrict it to only to families of those who have died while in service.

Excluding those who "died as a result of the service" would disqualify people such as a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange during the war but died from the related complications after their service ended.

Zwonitzer said he expect an in-depth discussion and debate on the issue when the committee meets again.

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