December 20, 2014

Lawmakers hear testimony on controversial veterans bill

The governor would appoint the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, under legislation proposed at the state Capitol. Currently, the veterans secretary is appointed by the Veterans Board.

Representative Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca) is the bill’s sponsor. “Not only does the board appoint the secretary, but he is accountable to no one but the board — not the governor, not Wisconsin taxpayers; and ironically, the secretary is not even accountable to the very group he represents — Wisconsin’s veterans.”

Veterans groups across the state are divided on the bill (AB-96). State VFW Commander Tom Lemmer testifies at an Assembly Committee hearing in support of the measure.

However, the Wisconsin American Legion opposes the bill, according to its Commander Bob Batty. “By having the governor appoint not only the board, but also the secretary, you would just totally, fully politicize that board and we feel that would be a travesty to our veterans.”

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) supports the bill, with amendments, according to Anthony Hardie, who testified for the group.

This bill would also increase the number of board members from seven to nine, and reduce the length of the terms from six years to three. Currently, all board members must be veterans; this bill would go beyond that and require members to have served on active duty. It would also require regional representation.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:32