JEFFERSON CITY — House members endorsed legislation Tuesday that would provide a free college education to the spouses and children of military members killed or seriously wounded in combat.
Sponsoring Rep. Mike Cunningham, R-Marshfield, said 31 Missourians had been killed in the war in Iraq, but he did not know how many family members would qualify for the scholarships. They could be granted to the families of anyone killed or suffering 80 percent disability from combat action after Sept. 11, 2001.
Representatives gave first-round approval to the bill, House Bill 94, on a voice vote. Another vote is needed to send it to the Senate.
The program is similar to one already offered to survivors of those killed in the Vietnam War.
Cunningham’s bill authorizes free tuition, plus $2,000 a semester for room and board and up to $500 a semester for books to military dependents — children younger than 25 and spouses younger than 45.
Although passage of the bill would authorize the scholarships, they would require an appropriation in the budget.
Several military veterans praised the bill, including Rep. Will Kraus, R-Raytown, who spent 13 months in Iraq.
“If someone is willing to put their life on the line, we have an obligation to take care of them and their families,” Kraus said. “Providing higher education for their children is the best way we can do that.”