The House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday, April 24, allowing veterans to substitute military experience for minimum position requirements when seeking State employment.

Currently, the State Division of Personnel’s Standard Operating Procedure allows relevant military experience to substitute for minimum job requirements.

HB 71, sponsored by Rep. Andi Story (D-Juneau), would enshrine that policy in statute.

“In a 2012 survey, two-thirds of veterans named finding a job as the greatest challenge in transition from military to civilian life,” Story wrote in a sponsor statement.  “House Bill 71 attempts to ease this transition by allowing veterans, former prisoners of war or members of the national guard to substitute documented military experience for published minimum qualifications for state classified positions.”

During a House State Affairs Committee hearing, Story’s aide, Greg Smith, used an example of a State procurement specialist position that requires one year of prior procurement work.  HB 71 allows a veteran who did procurement work in the military to qualify for that position.

“Having this enshrined in statute makes a world of difference.  That way, it’ll be there for perpetuity and we don’t have to go through this year after year,” said Rep. Laddie Shaw (R-Anchorage), a co-sponsor and retired Navy SEAL.

“The current State policy is to accept experience gained while serving in the military to be used to meet the basic requirements for State jobs.  House Bill 71 would simply put this current practice into statute, adding a new subsection to the State Personnel Act,” Story said on the House floor.  “This legislation would provide certainty to our veterans, ensuring that their military experience would count irrespective of any change in administrations.  Also, departmental policies are not always routinely followed.  By placing this requirement into statute, House Bill 71 will increase compliance.”

Atypically, the House adopted an amendment from Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla), another veteran.  The amendment made a technical change to the bill, allowing military experience to substitute for a single position requirement, broadening the amount of military experience that can be considered.

“Legislative Legal indicated the amendment provides clarity that any and all military experience can be used to meet one or more… requirements of a State position,” Story said, thanking Eastman for coming to her in advance and working with her on the amendment.

The amendment passed without objection.

“Alaska has the highest proportion of veterans of any state, so we can expect finding civilian employment to be a major issue for Alaskan veterans,” Story said before HB 71 passed.  “This bill offers veterans the knowledge that there will be consistency in hiring practices that value their military experience.”

The bill now heads to the Senate.

The State of Alaska already grants a hiring preference for veterans.

Last year, the legislature passed HB 2, allowing private employers to publish a similar hiring preference for veterans without running afoul of the federal Civil Rights Act.

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