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Guest column/Veterans will benefit from bill

December 23, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

I introduced Senate Bill 367, the Veterans Opportunity Bill, as a result of a conversation I had with a grandmother whose grandson had just returned from Iraq. After speaking with the grandmother on Memorial Day, I was compelled to begin the process of drafting legislation that would assist our military veterans with educational opportunities and a pathway to enter the work force.

The legislation contains several provisions including: Awarding veterans academic credit for skills or training they acquired while serving in the military; training at least one faculty member at each two-year or four-year college or university as a liaison and contact for student veterans; and the establishment of a program that creates collaborative relationships between student veterans and alumni to help link veterans with prospective employers.

Because 2012 was an election year in the Legislature, the legislation laid dormant for most of the fall. When the Legislature reconvened after the Thanksgiving holiday, I sent a letter to Senate leadership respectfully requesting that the legislation receive a first hearing before the end of the year. This would give us an opportunity to begin a productive dialogue about the merits of the bill and engage all interested parties. Unfortunately, the lame duck session has ended and this important piece of legislation never even received a first hearing. What is even more troubling than this bill being passed over was that, aside from a few road naming bills, no significant legislation supporting our veterans was passed during the last two months. I am very disappointed by the lack of attention our veterans received at the end of this General Assembly.

During the first meeting of the Governor's Executive Workforce Board, where I serve as a member, leaders from all over the state shared ideas on how veterans could be integrated into Ohio's work force. Representatives from major employers described their positive experiences with veterans they had hired because of their discipline, work ethic and team oriented approach.

Gov. John Kasich signaled that he is interested in seeing bi-partisan legislation recognizing the skills of our student veterans and helping them transition into the workplace.

My legislation does exactly what the work force board is aiming to do.

Although this bill has been put aside for this year, I am committed to re-introducing it in the upcoming General Assembly and making our veterans one of my top legislative priorities during the next four years.

We have an obligation to support those who have sacrificed for us. The Veterans Opportunity Bill would give Ohio veterans recognition for the training and skills they already have, and it would re-emphasize Ohio's commitment to having veteran-friendly institutions of higher education.

I look forward to continuing to champion this worthy legislation in the upcoming year.

(Gentile, a Democrat from Steubenville, represents Ohio's 30th Senate District.)

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