The 77th legislative session is more than 75 percent complete, and we are starting to get an idea of what it is going to look like when it winds down completely June 4. Many policies are being debated in the halls of the Legislature and they will sort themselves out in the coming weeks. With respect to veterans’ issues, it is looking like this is going to be a fruitful session — better, in some respects, than the veteran community has had in some time.
There will certainly be successes and shortfalls when this session ends. The veteran community’s lobbying efforts match those of other communities and constituencies, none of which will get everything they want. For the most part, the veterans and veteran groups who have gone in front of committees this session have done an excellent job representing the broader veteran community, and in some cases, their conviction and persuasion have pushed bills through that otherwise might have failed.
One of the failures of this session has been with respect to the Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination. The Legislature did not see the value in this office that we and many of the service organizations that wrote letters and testified in support of it did, but lawmakers did choose to fund portions of it. As I told Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, while I do not believe the portions they funded will be an optimal approach for us to deliver on the mission we developed through the Green Zone Initiative, we will do everything we can to supplement it with the tremendous support of the veteran community. The mission is too important for failure to be an option.
Even with this failure, we are starting to realize successes. Just last week Assembly Bill 111 passed all of the way through the Legislature as one of the first non-emergency bills to do so. AB 111 changes the disabled-veteran license plate to the universally recognized disability symbol, which will help disabled veterans from getting parking citations. This bill came up as a priority during our Veterans Legislative Summit last year, and Assemblyman Randy Kirner from Reno took it on as a part of his legislative effort this session. Many veterans came out to support this bill, and some, especially Mr. Caleb Harris of Disabled American Veterans, really led the charge to see it through.
I believe we are poised to have a very successful session overall. I’ve been watching the veteran bills closely and have testified about how the Nevada Office of Veterans Services will work to implement the bills when they are passed, and I have seen a great deal of interest in the veteran community’s efforts from the legislators.
Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.