Caleb Cage: Veterans’ legislation for the 77th Session
Although our Legislature only meets every other year in Nevada, we know that it is a year-round process. Before the last legislative session ended in 2011, we were already working on implementing laws that had recently passed and, just as important, working on our bills for the next session. As difficult as it can seem, doing so allowed us to get started early on our initiatives and we plan on introducing and assisting others in introducing a wide array of legislation relevant to our service members, veterans and their families for the upcoming session.As most Nevada veteran advocates know, the 120-day legislative session for the 77th session begins on Feb. 4, 2013. Although that may seem like a long way off, it’s not: you can already go online to see what bills will be introduced this session and track which ones will be added over the coming weeks. A quick glance shows that several bills related to veterans have already been submitted, and several more will certainly be added ahead of the deadline in December.The legislative process for the Nevada Office of Veterans Services officially started with the Veterans Legislative Symposium in Tonopah last May. Veteran advocates and leaders from all over the state gathered together to prioritize key veterans issues for this legislative session. At this meeting, we facilitated a discussion that resulted in a total of 11 items for the veteran community to specifically pursue. Following on the success of that meeting, I developed background information sheets, vetted them through state leaders, and will be sending the final document out to legislators after the November election. Of those 11 items, there are several on which we already have been working with legislators and agencies. Sen. Brower and Assemblyman Kirner say they will introduce a bill to create a veterans designator on Nevada drivers licenses in the next session, and the Interim Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs passed a motion to introduce legislation on the same. Assemblyman Elliot Anderson and Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams also will be introducing several bills dealing with veterans’ education and reintegration issues. Of course, there are many other bills that already have been announced and several more that we are excited to be working on in the future. All of the bills we are working on come from ideas developed at the legislative symposium and through our efforts with the Green Zone Initiative. We will see bills on the definition of a veteran, on disabled veteran license plates, new state benefits for Nevada veterans, and even new methods of coordinating and delivering services, opportunities and benefits. While it is too early to get into the details of all of these various legislative items, I am proud of everything we have accomplished to date and excited about taking them into the legislative session with the support of the broader veteran community.While the legislative symposium is held in between sessions, we also hold legislative summits right before the legislative sessions. These events are an opportunity for us to go back to the veteran community and talk about what we have been able to accomplish to date, and how we can all work together during the upcoming session. The next summit will be held in Tonopah on Jan. 12, 2013, at the Tonopah Convention Center. More information will follow in the weeks ahead, but we hope to have as good statewide participation as we had at our last one in Sparks in 2011.While the hard work in advance of a legislative session is at times difficult, it is also true that it is challenging and fulfilling. It is great to see hard work develop into real legislation that can improve our ability to serve veterans in our state. It is great to bring the broader community into the discussion so that they can see what these changes might mean and how they might assist in implementing them. And it is great to see the veteran community come together and advocate for the cause that they live and breathe every day: serving their fellow veterans.• Caleb S. Cage is the Executive Director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.