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Gov. Brown signs bills to help veterans, create O.C. cemetery

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed 21 bills to help and recognize military veterans, including a measure to help create the first veterans' cemetery in Orange County.

Other bills signed protect veterans' rights to healthcare, education and shelter.

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The cemetery bill by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs to work with local governments to design, develop, construct and equip a veterans' cemetery in the former Marine Corps Station El Toro in Irvine. The state agency will apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for the creation of the cemetery.

"Local veterans, many of whom risked their lives on foreign soil, deserve an honorable place that will provide their families and communities a true and lasting opportunity to pay their respects," Quirk-Silva said in a statement in support of AB 1453.

She noted that California is home to more veterans than any other state in the nation, with a majority of those veterans residing in Southern California.

Other bills signed by the governor will:

-- Allow the courts to create a diversion program for active duty military personnel or veterans who commit misdemeanors and are suffering from service-related trauma or drug abuse. Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) authored SB 1227.

-- Require that non-veteran spouses living in Veterans Homes in California pay the same fees as veteran residents. Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced SB 1440.

-- Protect the ability of 78,000 veterans to continue to enjoy benefits of the G.I. Bill while attending California universities and community colleges by updating in-state tuition policies. The bill provides in-state college tuition for veterans who were stationed in California immediately before being discharged. Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare) authored AB 13.

-- Allow veterans to apply for a driver's license or identification card from the state that features a "Veteran" designation. Assemblyman Jim Frazier Jr. (D-Oakley) authored AB 935.

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