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House passes bill to reconfigure veterans affairs agency

Published March 11, 2013 2:47 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A bill giving the governor more control over appointments to the Department of Veteran Affairs while also reconfiguring the agency to work closely with military installations such as Hill Air Force Base cleared the House of Representatives Monday.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said HB395 is aimed at better assisting veterans transitioning to civilian life and the new composition of the Veterans Advisory Council would be able to also address concerns of military personnel.

"Veterans make terrible lobbyists," Hughes said. "It is our job to look after and defend our veterans."

The measure also proposes changing the agency's name to the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. It passed 70-0.

The proposed overhaul began when Gov. Gary Herbert asked Veterans Affairs Director Terry Schow to retire in December and sought to appoint Gary Harter, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has worked in state economic development. The move wasn't applauded universally by veterans.

The measure changes the make-up of the Veterans Advisory Council, which would advise the executive director. The council would be expanded from 11 members to 14. However, three of the members would be non-voting, and the 11 voting members would serve four-year terms.

Seven members would be appointed by the governor, and they must include a member from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero

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