Janssen Bill Aims to Create Jobs for Disabled Vets


Janssen Bill Aims to Create Jobs for Disabled Vets


From Paul Hammel of the Omaha World-Herald:

LINCOLN - Disabled veterans who own a business would get some preference in obtaining state contracts under a bill given first-round approval by the Nebraska Legislature on Tuesday.

State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, a veteran and the primary sponsor, said the bill is a “small scope” reaction to the high unemployment rate of veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That rate is 11 percent in Nebraska, he said.

“It's difficult for veterans now to start a business,” Janssen said. “This bill is out there to encourage veterans to get involving in the bidding process (for state contracts).”

Legislative Bill 224 advanced from first-round debate on a 32-1 vote, but not before Janssen promised to amend the bill later to ensure that it applies only to state contracts, and not those awarded by local governments. It would apply to state contracts for goods and services.

Some senators also questioned if the bill should be limited to only those veteran-owned businesses that are based in Nebraska.

Under LB 224, as now written, the veteran preference would apply to businesses with at least 51 percent ownership by a veteran with a service-associated disability. The veteran must live in Nebraska, but the company could be domiciled outside the state.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, also a veteran, was the only senator to vote against the bill. 

He complained that LB 224 was “feel good stuff.” Meanwhile, veterans faced much more serious problems, such as inadequate care at Veterans Administration hospitals and a lack of health insurance when they return from service, that Chambers said are ignored by lawmakers.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha raised the insurance issue during debate on LB 224. He said that unless a veteran has a service-related injury, they return from conflicts without health insurance.

An estimated 2,500 Nebraska veterans fit that description, Krist said.

The senator, who is also a veteran, said he plans to introduce legislation next year to qualify veterans and their families for coverage under the state Medicaid program if their family income is less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Krist had proposed the idea as an amendment to Janssen's bill. But he withdrew it, saying it could not be attached since it was not germane to the veteran contract issue.