This month the Nevada Department of Veterans Services held its 2017 Legislative Summit in Las Vegas. Emceed by department outreach manager Blake Boles, the department shared its vision with several hundred veterans by discussing recommendations concerning upcoming legislation.
A similar meeting was held in Reno. As is always the case, passage of veterans’ bills presented to the state Assembly and Senate in Carson City is never guaranteed.
State Sen. Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City), spoke briefly and told veterans that “It’s about you, collectively.” He stressed that veterans are united and collectively they have the power to change things for the better. He indicated that problems should be put together with solutions, and closed his remarks by asking veterans and active-duty personnel to “Stand, and give yourselves a standing ovation!”
Assemblyman Chris Edwards, (R-Clark County), reported that he will chair the Veterans Caucus at the 2017 Nevada legislative session in Carson City. He urged veterans to visit with state senators and assemblymen before those officials report for duty in Carson City. Veterans should let them know their ideas on legislation, but at the same time they must realize that any bills involving money take longer to prepare and are generally more difficult to pass. Edwards explained the legislative process and spoke about what gets amended and what gets voted down.
“We don’t have time to read them all,” he said. As a result, he explained that phone calls, letters and emails are a big help for officials in bringing issues to their attention. He ended by admonishing veterans that when contacting officials, “Be nice, don’t go down the abusive road. And remember to say ‘Thank you.’”
Local VA Director of Federal Benefits Sheila Jackson told the group that “You are very effective as advocates and as a policy group.”
The Director of the VA Southern Nevada Medical Clinic, Peggy Kearns, said, “We rely on you to promote the legislative process.”
Cesar Melgarejo, veteran’s policy analyst for the Interagency Council on Veteran Services, discussed numerous bills that are coming before the Legislature, and Kat Miller, director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, explained a number of other bills while giving an update on the department’s budget priorities as well as praising the veterans’ home in Boulder City, which is operated by her department.
Tony Yarbrough, the Nevada Legislative Representative for Veterans of Foreign Wars District 1, gave his recommendations concerning legislation and discussed expanding veterans courts. He also said he was seeking to designate Nevada as a “Purple Heart State” which would recognize and honor Nevada’s Purple Heart veterans. If passed, the recognition would come through a continuing resolution recorded by the Secretary of State.
March 15 has been designated as Military and Veterans Day at the Legislature. Detailed information on current veterans’ bills was distributed to those attending the summit. The Nevada Legislature meets every two years, and will meet this year. While the public is welcome to view the political gatherings, information on bills can be obtained at home by going to the legislative website: www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL, and/or to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, www.veterans.nv.gov.
Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a Purple Heart recipient. Every other Sunday he discusses veterans’ issues over several Lotus Broadcasting AM radio stations in Southern Nevada.