Caleb S. Cage: Legislative session was a success for veteran community
The first week of June saw the end of the 77th legislative session and the 27th special session that followed. All of the bills that were set to be signed have received the governor’s signature.
Although the Legislature was not able to fully consider or decided against several veteran-related bills, the veteran community had a successful session.
The Nevada Office of Veterans Services works year-round to help veterans develop legislative priorities, then ensure veterans and organizations get an chance to meet with legislators who will carry their bills into session. In the even years between sessions, we hold a Veterans Legislative Symposium to brainstorm and prioritize issues. In the odd years, immediately before the session, we gather again at a Veterans Legislative Summit to discuss all of the hard work and progress. Finally, during the session, we invite veterans from throughout the state to participate in Veterans and Military Day at the Legislature to gauge progress and interact with legislators as much as possible. All of these efforts and the efforts carried forward by many veteran-service organizations resulted in a considerable amount of legislative progress this year.
The veteran community was able to build momentum toward its legislative priorities ahead of the session. That resulted in the passage of five of the eight priorities it had developed. Assembly Bill 111, which revised the disabled-veteran license plate, was signed early in the session. Assembly Bill 266, which created a definition of a veteran in the Nevada Revised Statutes to include National Guard members who served for six years, was signed nearer to the end. We worked with Sen. Greg Brower, Assemblyman Randy Kirner and the DMV on Senate Bill 244, which authorized placing a designation of veteran status on the Nevada driver’s license. I was pleased to see that measure receive wide support. Although they were not legislative priorities this session, we also worked with several service organizations on the passage of Senate Bill 230, which allows for a memorial to Nevada’s fallen service members in Carson City; Senate Bill 365, which creates the crime of “stolen valor” in Nevada; and Assembly Bill 260, which allows the Nevada System of Higher Education to charge in-state tuition for veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Assembly Bill 58 was the Nevada Office of Veterans Services’ primary bill for this session, and we received enormous support in its passage. The bill changed our name to the Department of Veterans Services, authorized the construction of the Northern Nevada Veterans Home, created the Interagency Council on Veterans Affairs, and created a discount opportunity for disabled veterans for all Nevada state parks.
The most important piece of veteran-related legislation we worked on was done in March, during Veterans and Military Day at the Legislature. The bill, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 4, honored Nevadans who lost their lives in the war on terrorism. Though this resolution did not change any laws or appropriate any money, it was a fitting memorial to our fallen and I was proud to take part in it.
Even with these successes, several items failed. The Office of Veterans Policy and Coordination that was developed in concept through the Green Zone Initiative was not created. There were several others, including a bill that would allow the Veterans Services Commission to recommend naming state buildings and state parks after fallen Nevadans. We knew not all the bills would pass, and now that the session is over, we can start building on the enormous successes achieved during this session.
Caleb S. Cage is the executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. You can read his blog at http://veterans.nv.gov/blog.