Two of my top goals as your State Senator are to create a positive climate in our state for the creation of good paying private sector jobs and to ensure the highest quality service for our servicemen and women who are returning to Wisconsin after serving our country. While each of these issues poses significant challenges by themselves, the two issues are directly linked
As of September of 2011, there were over 407,000 veterans living in the state of Wisconsin. These men and women have thankfully chosen to call Wisconsin home after completing their service to our nation, and for that we are very thankful. In an effort to show our appreciation, our state has created numerous incentives in the areas of tax policy and support services for our veterans and their families. Now, as more and more of our fellow citizens return home from their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important that we help them access jobs so they can support themselves and their families through employment.
Sadly, as these servicemen and women return to Wisconsin, they are facing an unemployment rate for veterans that is between 13% and 15%. When you compare this to the overall statewide unemployment rate of 7.3%, it becomes clear that this level is simply unacceptable for those who have put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. Therefore, it has become clear that it is necessary to provide opportunities for veterans to secure good jobs upon returning to Wisconsin. This is important both for the veterans who already call Wisconsin home, but also for making Wisconsin a top target for veterans looking for a place to live.
I am pleased to report that we are making good progress in this area. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) under the leadership of Secretary John Scocos has made it a priority to involve other state agencies in helping to get our veterans back to work. Specifically, DVA has been working with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to help veterans find work.
In addition, as chair of the Senate’s Committee on Economic Development and Veterans and Military Affairs, I have worked hard with my colleagues to ensure that Wisconsin is open to good employment opportunities for our veterans.
Specifically, we have advanced a number of bills that will expand job opportunities for veterans. Each of these bills has received bipartisan support and I look forward to them moving through the legislature quickly.
Senate Bill (SB) 338
This bill would waive the fee for veterans to obtain one professional or occupational license of their choice from the state. The best way to ensure that veterans are employed –for the long term- once they return to Wisconsin is to ensure that they are able to use their specific technical skills in their job. Unfortunately, Wisconsin currently has a number of agencies and boards that issue hundreds of different professional or occupational licenses with fees attached that must be obtained prior to working in a given field.
This bill gives veterans a jump start on finding employment once they return by letting them obtain one professional or occupational license at no cost as long as they meet all of the specific requirements. SB 338 recently passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote and now awaits consideration by the State Assembly.
Currently, the state may give preference to a disabled veteran who is applying for a nonprofessional or entry level job in the civil service system, provided the disabled veteran meets certain general eligibility criteria and is fully qualified for the position. This bill extends this process to various professional positions within the state civil service system as well. This will allow the state the opportunity to quickly hire additional qualified disabled veterans for a variety of positions.
SB 339 passed out of its Senate committee on a 7-0 vote and is currently waiting to be voted on by the full Senate. A committee vote in the Assembly is scheduled for later this week.
This bill seeks to allow veterans to use the professional skills that they have learned and earned during their military service to obtain employment opportunities when they return home. Currently, veterans are returning to Wisconsin with highly proficient technical skills that have been honed through the military but those skills are not allowed to be considered to meet skill requirements for certain jobs. For example, while in the military, our soldiers may serve as nurse aids, feeding assistants, EMTs, first responders, poison control specialists, cooks, and in a variety of other functions. If an individual possesses certain skills in these areas that are good enough for the military, they should also be applicable in civilian life.
This bill allows veterans to forego the formal requirements of many of Wisconsin’s professional credentialing laws. All a veteran needs to do is demonstrate to the proper state agency that their military experience gives them the proper expertise for a certain license, and they may be exempt from the required education requirements for that license. Because this bill forgoes what can be a time consuming and expensive credentialing and education process, it will be instrumental in getting veterans working in skilled jobs right away.
SB 357 has passed out of its Senate committee on a 7-0 vote and is currently waiting to be voted on by the full Senate. A committee vote in the Assembly is scheduled for later this week.
These are just some of the bills that I have been pleased to help pass through the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Veterans and Military Affairs in recent weeks. We as individual free citizens and as a state and nation have benefited from the service and sacrifice of our veterans and it is important that we welcome them home with jobs and employment opportunities.
As always, it has been a pleasure communicating with you. Please remember to communicate with me and share your input by calling 888-295-8750, writing to me at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882, or by e-mailing me at Sen.Leibham@legis.wi.gov. You can also log on to the 9th Senate District on-line office at www.leibhamsenate.com.
It is an honor to work for and represent the residents of the 9th District in the State Senate.