By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
It started with Tuesday but passed on a Thursday.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken’s first piece of legislation -- to create a pilot program to get disabled military veterans about 200 service dogs and study the impact -- passed the Senate today as part of the 2010 defense authorization bill. The defense bill now awaits President Obama's signature.
Franken, long a dog lover, said he was inspired to offer the bill after he met Luis Carlos Montalvan and his dog, Tuesday, at President Obama's inauguration in January. (More on his story here.)
The measure seems a near perfect first piece of legislation for the newly-minted Franken. It involved dogs (sweet), veterans (honorable), is relatively cheap (about $5 million in the $680.2 billion bill) and had Republican co-sponsors in the House and Senate (bipartisan.) Perhaps the only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been had the measure mandated the dogs be trained by 4Hers (farmers and kids!)
The bill won't get dogs to all veterans who await them, nor will it supplant the work non-profits do to fund dogs for vets. Instead, it will deliver dogs to about 200 veterans who will be enrolled in a multi-year study to determine the cost and benefits of the companion animals.
"This is a start," Franken said.