Gov. Baker Agrees with Soldiers’ Home Bill Pushed by Rep. Campbell, but Seeks Delay

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell. (WHAV News photograph.)

A little more work is required before a bill, championed by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, takes effect to improve oversight of the state’s soldiers’ homes.

Stressing his support for the goals of the underlying measure, Gov. Charlie Baker on Saturday returned to lawmakers a bill reshaping oversight and management at state-run soldiers’ homes with an amendment giving the executive branch a bit more time to implement the reforms.

“These amendments permit critical planning and implementation work to begin immediately while allowing the next administration to make its appointments for these newly constituted offices and the Veterans’ Homes Council,” Baker said.

Campbell and Sen. Mike Rush, both veterans, prevailed last Thursday in their calls for “a clear chain of command” to oversee state veterans’ homes. Campbell expressed her unhappiness with the bill that emerged from the House last February by voting “present” rather than yes or no.

A House and Senate conference committee sided with Campbell and Rush on the bill which is intended to prevent another tragedy like the COVID-19 outbreak that took dozens of veterans’ lives in 2020 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Baker sent back the bill lawmakers enacted two days earlier with a recommendation to add about a page and a half of language, but not strip or reword anything else in the measure. Taken together, Baker said, his proposed changes push the effective date for elevating the Department of Veterans’ Services to be its own cabinet-level executive office and setting up an independent Office of the Veteran Advocate from Nov. 1, 2022 to March 1, 2023 and reinforce its new positions within the executive branch constellation.

Baker said he plans to file a spending bill soon to ensure the two departments “have the fiscal support and resources necessary to carry out their essential missions.”

Baker’s term ends in early January and the winner of this fall’s election will take office early next year.

 Chris Lisinski of State House News Service contributed to this report.

Comments are closed.