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Assemblyman Brian Bergen. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.)

Bergen chides Tucker over lax veterans’ committee schedule

By Nikita Biryukov, June 10 2021 4:59 pm

Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville) is picking a fight with the chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

In a letter sent Thursday to Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Newark), the committee’s chairwoman, the Republican lawmaker aired criticisms over the body’s lax meeting schedule, one that he said eschewed bills that would help the state’s veterans.

“Over the past four years the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee has spent LESS THAN 16 TOTAL HOURS discussing veteran’s legislation,” he said. “It held only 14 meetings from 2018 to 2019 for a total of six hours of discussion and voting and held seven meetings from 2020 to 2021 for ten hours of total meeting time”

Bergen, a West Point graduate who served as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, charged the panel rarely took up bills that would help veterans, claiming it instead focused on feel-good measures that did little to help former service members.

The panel met Tuesday but advanced no bills, instead clearing eight resolutions urging Congress to act on a series of veterans’ issues.

Bergen included a list of four bills he believed were ripe for passage. They would increase annual state payments to veterans with select injuries connected to their military service from $750 to $3,000, create a program to connect veterans with employers, creating a property tax exemption for honorably discharged veterans with permanent injuries and create a grant program for veterans purchasing franchises.

“As a veteran and colleague in the state Assembly, I implore you to engage the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee to meet often and take time to discuss legislation that supports our veterans. New Jersey is home to more than 300,000 veterans, with over 50,000 having service-connected disabilities,” Bergen said. “Right now, the state is not doing enough for them and nothing will change unless you act.”

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