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P.K. O’Neill: Advocating for Nevada veterans

Philip “PK” O’Neill

Throughout the many politicized and publicized issues we face in the Legislature, it is not difficult to lose sight of some important topics that have not always been in the limelight.

Those include issues affecting our veterans.

During his State of State address this year, Gov. Brian Sandoval proudly proclaimed 2014 as the "Year of the Veteran." In that speech, Sandoval highlighted some of his top priorities for veterans from the previous year.

He mentioned that Nevada has doubled the number of veteran service officers. As a result, Nevada veterans have received an additional $50 million annually, tripling the amount from three years ago with money that helps stimulate our economy.

With the Southern Nevada Veterans Home at capacity, and Northern Nevadans having no veterans' home of their own, Sandoval included $14 million of bond funds in his budget to build a new Northern Nevada Veterans Home in Reno. The opening of that new facility will increase the 180 beds currently provided for nursing care for veterans and their spouses, widows or widowers.

Speaking about all these initiatives, the governor said, "Our veterans deserve nothing less."

I completely agree!

Furthermore, we have taken the governor's lead and continued to work hard for our service members during this Legislative Session.

In addition to the initiatives mentioned by the Gov. Sandoval, here is some of the veteran-related legislation that we have either passed out of the Assembly or have been signed into law this session.

An important education bill that affects veterans is AB76, which waives out-of-state tuition to honorably discharged veterans to attend Nevada's institutions of higher learning. This bill, which passed the Assembly unanimously, benefits our state by attracting well-trained individuals with a positive work ethic, where they can continue their education, join our workforce and be productive citizens.

Through hard work, I was able to get this bill amended to extend the period for this benefit to five years from discharge and was proud when the governor signed it into law in March.

Another bill that passed the Assembly without opposition is AB62 a measure that honors our fallen heroes.

It requires county coroners who reasonably believe that an unclaimed deceased person is a veteran to report the death to the Department of Veterans Services so they can be properly buried or cremated. It also creates a Veterans Day at the Legislature as well as modifying preferences in state purchasing for businesses operated by veterans. Also, the bill requires the reporting of information concerning the suicide mortality rate of veterans.

Moreover, I co-sponsored with Democratic Sen. Mark Manendo, SB145 that allows nonresidents military personnel who are stationed in Nevada to enroll in the Program for the Education of Motorcycle Riders that passed both house of the Legislature and was signed into law. This bipartisan legislation allows service members the opportunity to get a motorcycle license in this state instead of returning to their home state to take the class.

Here are a few of the bills making their way through the legislature which benefit veterans are:

AB71: Affecting exemptions for honorably discharged veterans for property taxes and the governmental services tax.

AB103: Providing for issuance of special license plates for veterans who are awarded the Silver Star or Bronze Star Medal.

AB241: Creating the Advisory Military and Veterans Research Committee.

Why is it that I have co-sponsored much of the legislation mentioned above and want to advocate for veteran issues?

Part of it is paying what society owes to these patriots who have defended our freedoms at a great personal risk.

Part of it is simply doing what is right.

In addition, we must continue to develop Nevada as a state that is recognized to be supportive of veterans and willing to offer incentives to veterans. These efforts help make this state a place where veterans want to live.

This will help in creating a strong educated workforce that will improve our state.

That is why I am proud to be an advocate for veterans.

Carson City Assemblyman P.K. O'Neill can be reached at PK.Oneill@asm.state.nv.us or at 775-684-8825