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Veterans hiring bill signed

Minnesota State Mankato students joined Governor Mark Dayton at bill signing.

Tim Krohn, Mankato Free Press, 5-5-12

Most people might assume there is a clear and strong process that gives a hiring preference for quali­fied veterans applying for government jobs.

But veterans looking for those jobs said they found the reality is there is mini­mal preference. On Friday, local veterans were at the Capitol watching as Gov.

Mark Dayton signed legis­lation aimed at closing loopholes and strengthen­ing veteran hiring prefer­ences.

“It’s a good day for dis­abled veterans and veterans in Minnesota,” said Mankato veteran Tom McLaughlin.

McLaughlin and other vets, including Minnesota State University students and graduates, had testified at legislative hearings earli­er in the session at the invi­tation of Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Madison Lake, who spon­sored some of the legisla­tion.

Joining McLaughlin at the bill signing were MSU students and disabled vet­erans Curtis Shotliff and Jason McNamara as well as MSU grad and veteran Luke Weinandt.

“ We have unemployment among veterans of 22.9 percent and it’s going to go higher as more come back (from the Middle East),” DeKruif said.

“Many states have much better hiring preferences and it’s showing up.”

The package of bills signed Friday — most of which passed unanimously in the Legislature — will, among other things:

  • Increase the preference “points” given to qualified veterans who pass pre­employment tests for any state job. “If they passed the test, they (now) get 5 points for veterans and 10 points for disabled veter­ans,” DeKruif said. “ We upped that to 10 and 15 points.”
  • Tighten up rules that require employers hold the jobs of veterans who are deployed and ensure they get that job back when they return. The state of Minnesota was effectively given a waiver by the feder­al government that didn’t require them to hold veter­ans’ jobs. The new legisla­tion requires state agencies to hold veterans’ jobs.
  • Allow counties and pri­vate companies to set up hiring programs that give preference to veterans.

Current law barred private businesses and county gov­ernments from doing that in the past.

  • Give much higher “absolute preference” to 30 percent disabled veterans seeking state jobs. The rules will allow their hiring in a non- competitive basis.

McLaughlin said many of the veteran hiring prefer­ence laws were weakened in the early 1970s. The long­time veteran advocate said support at the state Capitol is much stronger now than decades ago.

“ We visited with our area legislators while we were up there. Everyone was very welcoming. It’s a lot differ­ent than when I was going up there in the ’70s.”

Weinandt, who was recently hired by the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans in Mankato, said his work on changing the laws grew out of his own experiences and those of a friend.

“I was applying for these state jobs I was well quali­fied for, and I wasn’t even getting calls back.” He said he learned that if other “protected class” people — such as females and minori­ties — were applying for the job, they often had high­er preference under current practices.

Weinandt was particular­ly motivated after the expe­rience of his close friend veteran Mike McLaughlin, who is Tom McLaughlin’s son.

Mike McLaughlin had served a year-long intern­ship with the Department of Natural Resources and applied for the job when it opened up.

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