Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to Camp Beauregard near Pineville on Tuesday to sign into law legislation that will benefit the families of 32 fallen Louisiana National Guardsmen.
A few hours later, the governor vetoed an identical bill sponsored by a Republican state senator who fought for years to extend the benefits to the families.
In addition to pushing to include omitted families in the military benefit, state Sen. Robert Adley has sponsored legislation to require greater public access to Governor’s Office records.
The governor vetoed Adley’s Senate Bill 1 and instead signed House Bill 143 by state Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans.
Both bills sought to correct a mistake that the Legislature made in 2007 when it created monetary benefits for members of the Louisiana National Guard killed or permanently disabled in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The bill omitted soldiers killed or injured between Sept. 11, 2001, and July 6, 2007.
The benefit pays $250,000 for deaths and $100,000 for permanent disabilities.
The governor included $8 million in his original state operating budget to pay the benefits to the 32 families of the fallen soldiers. Another $200,000 was added during the legislative session to pay two soldiers who are believed to be eligible for the disability benefit.
Adley, R-Benton, said he does not care that the governor embraced Lorusso’s bill instead of his.
“At the end of the day, I know who started this bill,” Adley said. “It’s more important to me that we did the right thing for these veterans.”
In vetoing Adley’s bill, the governor said the legislation was unnecessary since he already had signed Lorusso’s bill into law.
The governor’s action on the bills came just a day after the nation celebrated the anniversary of declaring its independence from Great Britain.
Webster Reed, of Krotz Springs, said the holiday is becoming more about sales than about remembering the sacrifices made for freedom.
Reed said the legislation is bittersweet as well since he still is mourning the loss of his son, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Reed.
Reed’s son died Jan. 28, 2005, in Iraq when a bomb struck his vehicle a few days after his 25th birthday.
The bill signed Tuesday by Jindal will benefit Jonathan Reed’s young son.
Webster Reed said the benefit will not give him another chance to hug his son.
“It’s never going to make you happy. It’s never going to bring your son back,” he said.
Judy Barnett, of Baker, grew tearful Tuesday when she learned the governor had signed the bill.
Barnett’s 32-year-old son, Army 1st Lt. Christopher Barnett, died in Iraq three years before the passage of the initial law.
“To me, it’s a bittersweet end, but it’s good for the families. Everyone’s being treated fairly and all of them are being recognized now,” she said.
Jindal’s signature on the bill is bittersweet, Barnett said, because it brings to a conclusion a battle she fought for several years to win recognition for the family her son left behind.
Barnett testified at the State Capitol and approached the governor at a Christmas party about the benefit.
“I feel like I’ve finished Chris’ job and, now I don’t have anything to do,” she said.