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Assemblyman Gray announces legislation for retiring veterans, underage marijuana consumption
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Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (21st District) announced two separate bills this week, one of which aims to assist retiring military service members, and another that will make it more difficult for minors to purchase and consume marijuana.

The Service to Civilian Act will aid those who have retired from the military as they transition into civilian life, providing a depreciating tax exemption over the course of the first five years after a veteran retires from military service.

“Despite having the nation’s largest veteran population, California’s policies are increasingly driving veterans out of the state,” said Gray. “Our policies are especially burdensome for newly retired, post-9-11 veterans just transitioning to civilian life.”

California currently provides no form of tax exemption for military retirement pay, unlike most other states. For example, Massachusetts grants their military retirees an exemption from state income taxes on military retiree pensions. Including Massachusetts, there are a total of 20 states that have an exemption on military retirement pay. While some states provide a partial exemption, California is among the seven states that do not offer any tax exemption at all.

Gray previously introduced legislation to fully exempt military retirement pay from the state income tax, but that measure stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee due to cost concerns.

“I continue to believe California should not balance its checkbook on the backs of veterans,” said Gray. “Military retirement pay should be fully tax exempt as it is in 20 other states. As we continue to make that case in Sacramento, the Service to Civilian Act is an important first step.”

The bill calls for 100 percent of military retirement pay to be exempt from state income tax in the first year of retirement, 80 percent the second year, 60 percent the third year, 40 percent the fourth year, and 20 percent the fifth year.

“Retiring from the service creates an incredible amount of uncertainty for military families,” continued Gray. “Newly retired veterans are less likely to have civilian employment or a place to live, and are more likely to struggle with post-traumatic stress and the lack of military structure. The Service to Civilian Act will give our veterans a running start at a time they and their families need it most.”

In addition to trying to make the state more a more affordable home, Gray also hopes to make it a safer place following the passage of Proposition 64 in November.

New legislation, Assembly Bill 729, aims to combat the purchase and consumption of marijuana by children and people under the age of 21. While Proposition 64 prohibits the use of the drug by people younger than 21, there are no specific laws included in the proposition which assist the enforcement of the stipulation.

“With the legalization of recreational use marijuana under Proposition 64, it is more important than ever that safeguards are put in place to ensure marijuana stays out of the hands of children,” said Gray. “Anyone that has read the proposition can see the chapter titled ‘Protecting Minors’ is sparse on details to actually accomplish that goal.”

AB 729 applies similar laws on the books for alcohol and tobacco to marijuana in order to fill the gaps in Proposition 64 to prevent purchase and consumption by minors. Specifically, the bill:

Requires mandatory license suspension or revocation for repeat offenders who sell marijuana to a person under 21. Allows law enforcement to enter and conduct inspections of licensed locations. Adds implementation language for law enforcement to conduct underage sting operations. Requires licensed retailers to maintain an unobstructed view for law enforcement into their establishment. Allows retailers to seize false identification. Requires cultivators and retailers to post a “No Person Under 21 Allowed” sign outside and inside their business. Adds playground, hospital, and church to the list of locations from which a licensee may not be located within 600 feet.

“The California Legislature, and specifically the Governmental Organization Committee which I chair, has a long history of regulating age-restricted products like alcohol and tobacco,” said Gray. “We have passed a number of laws to successfully reduce the use of these products by children. It is incumbent on the Legislature now to ensure the same child protections are enacted into law for California’s newest age-restricted product – marijuana.”