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Senator Chris Gebhard hopes to revise the definition of “armory” to broaden the authority of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to manage the military’s properties in Pennsylvania, such as facilities at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Gebhard, the Republican state senator for the 48th District (covering Lebanon County and parts of York and Dauphin counties), is sponsoring the bill, which he introduced on the Senate floor for a first consideration on Feb. 7.

“The current version of the armory law is outdated and in need of a language and definition update,” Gebhard said in a memorandum to Senate members on Jan. 20. “An armory in Pennsylvania will be redefined to include any buildings that help maintain and support Pennsylvania Military forces.

“This key change will allow the State Armory Board to advise on a greater array of issues to support our soldiers more effectively,” he further explained. “In addition, this legislation will remove The Adjunct General (TAG) as a voting member from the State Armory Board and transition the board into an advisory body for the TAG. The board will advise the TAG on operations for the upcoming five-year plan.”

Although an armory is most commonly defined as “a place where weapons are kept,” legislative aide Christian Brightbill told LebTown that Pennsylvania defines the word to mean any “land, buildings and fixtures used for housing elements of the Pennsylvania military forces.”

Gebhard said in his memorandum that the change will allow the DMVA “to manage and maintain properties, like Fort Indiantown Gap, and others around the Commonwealth more effectively.”

Senate Bill 1047 received unanimous support on Feb. 7 from the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Read the full text of the bill here.

“The TAG will be able to authorize the rental of properties to government and non-profit agencies, which will allow DMVA to support agencies like the Marine League, American Legion, and Civil Air Patrol,” Gebhard wrote. “This bill has the support of the DMVA, TAG and State Armory Board.”

The bill would amend Title 51, regarding Military Affairs, in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.

According to information posted on the General Assembly’s website, the bill is “further providing for erection of armories and for management of armories, providing for management of buildings and structures at Fort Indiantown Gap, further providing for purchase or lease of ground for armories, for donation of land by political subdivisions, for donation of property and services by political subdivisions, for sale of unusable armories and land and sale or lease of timber and mineral rights, for payment of armory rentals by Commonwealth and for rental of armories, providing for rental and lease at Fort Indiantown Gap and further providing for property in armories of units in Federal service, for State Treasury Armory Fund and for maintenance, construction and repairs.”

Senator Chris Gebhard

Brightbill told LebTown that the DMVA “runs into a few problems because of the narrow definition” of armory as it currently stands in the law.

“The Armory Board can’t advise on buildings that troops aren’t physically quartered in,” he said in an email. “This results in a lot of bureaucratic roadblocks when the GAP tries to get something done.”

Brightbill noted that the bill would only affect buildings owned by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and not leased properties, such as recruitment centers, “because those don’t support current troops as much as bring new ones in.”

The DMVA and the Department of General Services reached out with a recommendation about the issue, Brightbill noted. “From there we worked with them to come up with this solution.”

Passage of the bill “is expected to have no impact on the states budget one way or another,” he added.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.