Caleb S. Cage: The Veterans Legislative Summit a long tradition
On Jan. 12 in Tonopah, the Nevada Office of Veterans Services hosted its regular Veterans Legislative Summit. With nearly 40 participants in attendance, this year’s event was a great opportunity to get together and discuss the latest news and plan for the way ahead. Even though it was a little cold, I felt like we accomplished a great deal. The Veterans Legislative Summit is an event that has been taking place for over a decade. The Nevada Office of Veterans Services hosts it every other year as a follow up to the Veterans Legislative Symposium, which takes place in years without a legislative session. The symposium allows us to gather leaders and members of the veteran community assist in listing and prioritizing the legislative issues for the session to come. We held that event in May 2012 for this biennium at an event that also took place in Tonopah.The Veterans Legislative Summit is a continuation of the symposium, and it is held during the year of a legislative session. The purpose of the Summit is to allow us an opportunity to gather again with veteran leaders and members in our state and discuss what progress has been made to date, and plan for the session to come. I was pleased by the turnout, by the discussion, and by the interest within the various veteran advocacy organizations to work together and to support the priorities that were developed in May of last year.There were 10 priorities in all developed at the Symposium last year. At that meeting, I pledged to pursue the priorities that I could through agency legislation, and to connect various leaders within the veteran community with legislators to get the others heard. Through numerous discussions and conferences following the May meeting, we were able to determine that eight of the ten priorities should be pursued this session, and all eight of those items are in the bill draft process right now thanks to legislators on both sides of the aisle who sought opportunities to address veteran-related initiatives in their legislative policy.During this recent Summit, we also took the opportunity to present on our own legislation. As a state agency, the Nevada Office of Veterans Services can present administrative legislation as well. Through our close efforts with Governor Sandoval’s office as well as with the team at the Legislative Counsel Bureau, we were able to develop Assembly Bill 58 for the 77th Session, the details of which were covered in the Governor’s State of the State address this last week. I will be detailing Assembly Bill 58 in future columns as well, but for now, I will only add that I believe that the ideas that it proposes will substantially improve our delivery of services to Nevada’s veterans, service members, family members, and survivors.Another goal of the Summit is to talk about effective advocacy, decorum, and maximizing the potential for the veteran community in the coming session. This is really a continuation of our planning effort in that many veterans and organizations work hard to ensure that we are making an impact ahead of the session and they do not want to squander that effort through avoidable missteps. Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, from Assembly District 15, gave a great presentation on all of these topics, as well as discussing several pieces of veteran-related legislation that he is sponsoring. As a legislator, a Marine Corps veteran, and a member of the Veterans Services Commission, which advises this agency, Assemblyman Anderson was the perfect person to speak on these issues.The biennial Legislative Symposium and Summit schedule allows us to do our best to ensure that the veteran community has the best opportunity to pursue its legislative efforts, the access they need to discuss their priorities with legislators, and the coordination required to minimize duplication and gaps in the statewide efforts. A lot of hard work has gone into assisting the development of the veteran legislative efforts to date, and much of that work has been done by our partner organizations within the veteran advocate community. Because of this hard work to date, I believe that the veteran community is unified, focused, and ready for the upcoming legislative session. • Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services, appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.