After nearly a decade-long fight, a bill that would facilitate the awarding of state contracts to disabled veterans passed the Senate and Assembly last week, all but guaranteeing the legislation will be signed into law once it is delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
Cuomo, who gave the program his blessing in February, said it “will play a large part in our ongoing efforts to create new economic opportunities for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.”
The same bill passed both legislative houses in 2007 and 2009 but was vetoed by former Gov. David Paterson.
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, New York state is home to nearly 900,000 veterans, 600,000 of whom have served during periods of conflict. The governor estimates there are roughly 106,000 service-connected disabled veterans in New York state.
The bill (A.09135/S.6865), which sponsor Sen. Greg Ball says is very similar to the plan adopted by the federal government, would create a 6 percent state contract set-aside for businesses owned by service-connected disabled-veterans and develop a comprehensive plan to promote service disabled veteran-owned business enterprises. Ball, R-Patterson, has previously touted veteran unemployment as an extremely pressing issue.
“This landmark legislation will create tens of thousands of jobs for veterans statewide and will allow service-disabled veteran small business owners to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracting,” said Ball, who is chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee. “We have been fighting to establish this set-aside for years and I want to sincerely thank Gov. Cuomo for giving us the backing we desperately needed at this critical time.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D–Manhattan, said the battle that soldiers face once they return home is completely different, having to transition back into civilian life can be difficult.
By ensuring more employment opportunities, this measure is just one of the many ways the Assembly can show its gratitude to the thousands of men and women that have bravely served our country,” Silver said.
Originally, Ball was calling for a 5 percent set-aside, but after negotiations with the governor, Sen. Co-Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the 6 percent figure was agreed upon, doubling the scope of the federal program.
“The contributions and sacrifices made by New York’s active duty military veterans and their families are an inspiration to us all,” said Skelos, R-Rockville Centre. “This bill demonstrates our commitment to building on our efforts to ensure that veterans receive the benefits, support and economic opportunities they deserve.”
Michael Benedetto, D–Bronx, commended the Assembly for passing a bill that recognizes the danger veterans incur while they are serving and helps them realize financial stability.
“Furthermore, it strengthens our state’s workforce by recognizing the expansive skill level that all of these men and women bring to the table,” said Benedetto, chair of Assembly Veterans Committee.
Brooklyn Democrat Felix Ortiz is the sponsor of the Assembly bill – which is called the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act. Ortiz, an Army veteran, said by passing this bill New York is fulfilling its duty to support and honor the men and women who fought overseas. “New York’s veterans need to know that they are not alone once they return home,” Ortiz said. “Giving them a better shot at success and financial stability is a moral obligation that both sides of the aisle and all levels of New York state government have embraced with open arms.”
Spokespersons for Ball and Ortiz said they expect the governor to sign the bill in the coming weeks.
A key provision of the act creates the Division of Service-Disabled Veterans’ Business Development within the Office of General Services, which would be required to develop and coordinate with the Office of General Services Commissioner to implement a statewide plan that promotes the program among state agencies. (ARTICLE)