November 11th is Veterans Day—a state and federal holiday to honor all veterans who have served our nation in times of peace and in war. It is a day for all Americans to say thank you to the soldiers, sailors and pilots who risked everything in order to protect our country and the freedoms that too many take for granted.
In the 2009 session, we approved legislation to help us honor those men and women. We approved legislation that will make it easier for veterans to vote in elections. Under this new law, county election boards will be able to send an absentee voting board into the state’s seven veterans’ centers to help residents cast their votes.
We also approved legislation to honor Oklahomans who are killed in the War on Terror. Under this new law, the governor will order flags on state property to be flown at half-staff on the day of the memorial service for Oklahomans killed in combat. On that day, all state agencies, interested organizations, groups and individuals are authorized and requested to fly their flags at half-staff as well. This legislation was actually requested by a member of the military who had served as a Senate page a few years before joining the army.
In addition, we approved the Soldiers Relief Act, which will exempt Oklahoma soldiers from state income taxes on federal pay. The net impact will result in a stronger tax base, because many of these soldiers are already claiming other states as their homes due to more favorable tax structures. Oklahoma is currently the second highest recruiting state in the nation, but two out of every three of our soldiers ultimately claim state residency elsewhere. For every 10,000 who do not claim Oklahoma as home, we lose $6 million in motor vehicle fees. With the passage of this new law, we have the potential to persuade more than 30,000 Oklahomans in the military to reclaim their state residency, and encourage future military men and women to retain Oklahoma as their state of residence.
Each of these new laws represents a way to help and thank the men and women who represent Oklahoma and our nation in the armed forces—they deserve our thanks and gratitude throughout the year.
As always, I welcome your comments on state government. Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Charles Wyrick at the State Capitol, Room 530, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5561.