Preference sought for veterans in public contracts

Lawmakers gave first-round approval May 28 to a bill intended to assist veterans in securing public contracts.

LB224, introduced by Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen, would provide a preference for a resident disabled veteran over any other resident or nonresident bidder when a public contract is to be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 31-2, provides that a resident disabled veteran would be allowed a preference over any other resident or nonresident bidder if all other factors are equal.

The amendment would limit the bill’s provisions to a resident disabled veteran who owns and controls at least 51 percent of a business. In the case of a publicly owned business, the bill would apply only to those in which resident disabled veterans owned at least 51 percent of the stock. The management and daily business operations also must be controlled by one or more resident disabled veterans.

Janssen said the bill would encourage disabled Nebraska veterans to seek state contracts without increasing costs to the state. Assisting veterans who create their own businesses could help reduce the state’s 11 percent unemployment rate for veterans, he said.

“They have served our country admirably,” Janssen said.

Several senators supported the intent of the bill but expressed concern about definitions and possible unintended consequences.

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha said the scope of the bill could interfere with the existing bid-letting preferences of municipalities and other political subdivisions.

“This [bill] would, in essence, trump that,” he said, “and they would have to go in and rewrite their ordinances.”

Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, chairperson of the committee, said the definitions and language in the amended bill were modeled on federal law, but he acknowledged that ambiguities would need to be addressed before the next round of debate.

Senators voted 32-1 to advance the bill to select file.

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