Stec praises bill giving free SUNY tuition to Gold Star families
Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, declared victory after Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order to extend free tuition and room and board at SUNY and CUNY schools to students who had a parent die in the military.
The Assembly held in committee legislation that would provide the benefit to dependents of military veterans who died in service to the country — not just those who died in combat or in training for combat.
Stec criticized the Assembly’s decision, particularly in light of the passage of a bill this session to extend free college tuition to undocumented immigrants through the state’s Dream Act.
Cuomo last Wednesday directed the Higher Education Service Corporation to broaden interpretation of who is eligible for the Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute (Merit) Scholarship to include all children, spouses and financial dependents of members of U.S. Armed Forces who die or become severely or permanently disabled or missing in action while performing their military duties, according to a news release.
“We can never replace the loved one lost, but we can lessen the hardship and make it a little easier to deal with the loss. And it is our honor, our obligation and our pleasure to do just that,” he said in his remarks last week at a news conference.
Stec said he is proud to have played a part in delivering funding that Gold Star families deserve.
“By taking action last week, raising awareness and standing up for what’s right, we rallied the support of the governor and even the president of the U.S.,” he said in a news release. “I am beyond thrilled to announce that this funding will be provided through executive order. This is a huge victory for service men and women and their families.”
Stec criticizes parole decision
Stec criticized the decision by the state parole board last Wednesday to free Judith Clark, who drove the getaway car during a robbery on Oct. 20, 1981, of a Brink’s truck in the Rockland County town of Clarkstown.
She was part of the plot by a radical leftist organization to steal $1.6 million to finance an uprising to establish a second black nation in the United States, according to a New York Times article.
A security guard was shot and killed in the robbery, and two police officers died after being shot at when trying to stop the U-Haul van at a checkpoint.
Clark was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison, which was commuted by Cuomo in 2016 to 35 years to life. She became eligible for parole in 2017 and was denied at that time.
This time, the board voted 2-1 to grant her parole, citing the work she has done to lead educational programs for inmates, improving prenatal care in prison and starting a program to train service dogs, according to the Times.
“I am appalled at the fact that a parole board would let Judith Clark walk free, an individual who was an accomplice in a crime that left two police officers and a security guard dead. How can we allow someone who has proven they show no regard for their actions or human life walk?” Stec said in a news release.
“This is another prime example of the dangerous precedent our government has been setting. Roughly a year ago a parole board allowed cop killer Herman Bell to walk, a man who executed two New York City police officers in cold blood. This is dangerous and outright disgusting; what type of message does this send to other individuals who commit violent acts?”
Expanding Agent Orange conditions
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik has co-sponsored two pieces of legislation supporting veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals.
Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is an original co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Promises Act, which would expand the list of medical conditions that are covered under the original Agent Orange Act of 1991. Among the diseases that now would be covered are prostate cancer, bladder cancer, neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, stroke, hypothyroidism and hypertension, according to govtrack.us.
In addition, Stefanik is co-sponsoring the Lonnie Kilpatrick Central Pacific Relief Act, which expands the list of territories where veterans could have been exposed to Agent Orange to include Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, according to a news release.
“I am a consistent supporter of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service,” Stefanik said in a news release. “It is often forgotten that many of our Vietnam-era veterans are still quietly suffering due to their exposure to toxic chemicals. They fought for their country valiantly, and now Congress has a responsibility to fight for their health and protection under the law.”