A 2021 Veteran's Day Ceremony featured appearances from (L-R) Assemblyman Erik Simonsen (R-1st), Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio, Sen. Michael Testa (R-1st)Assemblyman Antwan McClellan (R-1st)County Commissioner E. Marie Hayes, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd). 

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TRENTON - Separate bills, sponsored by Sen. Michael Testa (R-1st), would promote awareness and appreciation of Black history and provide additional financial benefits for veterans who were injured in the act of duty or spouses of veterans who died as a result of their service.

Black History Bill

Testa’s legislation to promote awareness and appreciation of Black history was endorsed Nov. 15 by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee, according to a release from the senator.

Under the bill, S-3727, the Division of Travel and Tourism would be required to establish a Black Heritage Trail and create the New Jersey Black Cultural Heritage Commission.

“The lives of African people and their descendants have contributed greatly to the fabric of New Jersey history for almost four centuries,” stated Testa (R-1). “Highlighting significant locations and events, the Black Heritage Trail will bring attention to those men and women who impacted industry, culture, arts and everyday life in New Jersey, but whose stories have too often been overlooked.”

The Black Heritage Trail would celebrate Black history, tradition, and culture through education, public programs, and historical markers.

The Assembly version of the bill (A-4706), sponsored by Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, was approved by a 73-0 vote in June.

“This bill is so important because our history as African-Americans in this country extends so much farther than just our lessons about slavery and our struggles for freedom,” McClellan stated. “The trail will connect the stories of Black life and resiliency in our state. From the new Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May here in the 1st District to the Hinchliffe Negro League Baseball Stadium in Newark, Black history and accomplishments are a rich part of the history of New Jersey.”

Under the bill, the Division of Travel and Tourism would maintain a web site containing information about Black heritage sites and providing vacation itineraries based on the Black Heritage Trail which would identify surrounding attractions, restaurants, lodging, and other exhibits or places of entertainment along the trail.

Veterans Bill

Veterans with service-connected injuries, and spouses of veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, may soon receive additional financial benefits from the State of New Jersey thanks to legislation sponsored by Testa and approved Nov.15 by the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“It is our duty to ensure the well-being of New Jersey’s veterans and their spouses,” stated Testa. “These bills will offer some much-needed financial relief and stability to our injured veterans, and their loved ones, during their time of need. And, for those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation, this legislation will help ease the tax burden that surviving spouses face. These benefits are hard-earned and well-deserved for those who have sacrificed so much to protect our country.”

The first bill, S-3359, would provide a gross income tax deduction—up to $6,000 for each taxable year—to the surviving spouse of a veteran who died while on active duty; was honorably discharged from active duty; or was released from active duty under honorable circumstances.

This second bill, S-2565, would increase the annual payment—from $750 to $1,800—made by the state to a veteran with certain specified service-connected injuries and the surviving spouse of that veteran.

Service-connected injuries include, but are not limited to, total loss of sight, paralysis, or amputation.

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