Letter: Reach out about bills that would impact local Legion and the community

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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Though most of us stopped wearing the uniform years ago, veterans have a deep-seated need to continue serving their communities. There are 537 American Legion posts throughout Minnesota, and 193 of them have charitable gambling operations. We use the funds to carry out our four pillars: veterans affairs and rehabilitation, national security, children and youth, and Americanism. That is why the American Legion Department of Minnesota fought the state Legislature’s changes to e-pull tabs last year so fiercely alongside many other organizations with charitable gambling.

Veterans service organizations, athletic associations, fire relief associations, nonprofits, bars and restaurants with charitable gambling operations became very concerned about their futures with the passing of the Minnesota Legislature’s tax omnibus bill. The new law specified that e-games with open all features, bonus games and free plays needed to be taken off the market by Dec. 31, 2024.

This legislative session, charitable gambling is being thrown a lifeline from an unexpected source: sports betting. Rep. Zack Stephenson’s bill, HF 2000, was heard in the State and Local Government Finance and Policy March 21. The A21 amendment contained the language to fund cuts to charitable gambling taxes in a phased approach resulting in about $40 million by the third year. State taxes on sports betting will fund these charitable gambling tax cuts.

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Our more than 50,000 American Legion Department of Minnesota members agreed to prioritize advocating for these tax cuts above all other things we want for the service member, military family and veteran community — because we think this will have the biggest impact. It’s difficult for me to fully describe how much this means to us. The funds we donate pay for honor guards at burial programs, outdoor recreation for disabled veterans, suicide prevention programs and stop-gap funding for homeless veterans. We donate to area school programs to help housing and food-insecure children. We support nonprofit human services organizations near our posts. We fund youth sports scholarships and equipment for local fire departments. We also fund local parades, fireworks displays, county fairs, school flags, marching band uniforms, football headsets, international sister-city efforts and wheelchair-friendly playground equipment. What I am describing to you represents the best of America, and these traditions need to continue.

I hope your readers will join me in supporting HF 2000 and its Senate companion, SF1949. Contact your state lawmakers in both the House and the Senate today to let them know you expect these tax cuts to go through under the sports betting bill, to the benefit of all Minnesotans.

Tom Norby
American Legion Post 56
Albert Lea