Brewer gets bill to give vets leg up on licenses

2013-04-11T00:00:00Z Brewer gets bill to give vets leg up on licensesHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
April 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - The way Sonny Borrelli sees it, if you could drive a big rig in a war zone, navigating Arizona traffic should be a breeze.

So now the state representative from Lake Havasu City has translated that idea to legislation given final legislative approval this week and sent Wednesday to Gov. Jan Brewer.

Under the terms of HB 2076, the Arizona Department of Transportation could waive the driving tests for commercial licenses for recently discharged veterans who can show they have comparable experience while in uniform. The only thing they would be required to do is pass a written exam on state motor vehicle laws.

But the legislation by the first-term GOP lawmaker could have other beneficiaries.

It also permits the state Board of Nursing to consider the experience that a veteran has had as a medic in determining whether he or she has met the requirements for a nursing license.

That might not eliminate all training. But Borrelli said there are probably skills required to get a license that people acquired in the military.

Borrelli said he confronted state bureaucracy after leaving the Marines after 20 years.

"I was a tractor-trailer operator by my military occupational specialty," he said.

Borrelli said he showed up at a California motor vehicle division office, bearing a certificate showing he had driven 50,000 miles without an accident, figuring that would qualify him to drive similar equipment there. Instead, state officials told him he needed to go through 40 hours of road time with a learner's permit - accompanied by a licensed operator - before he could even take a driving test.

"Do you know how much it costs to rent a tractor-trailer for 40 hours and to pay a licensed operator to ride with you?" he said.

With that experience, Borrelli decided to work on altering Arizona's similar laws. He said treating veterans with experience the same as novices makes no sense.

"This guy can drive a tractor-trailer anywhere in the world and dodge IEDs and RPGs but he can't maneuver in traffic?" he scoffed, referring to improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.

That logic also applies to veterans with medical experience in the military, he said.

"You have a hospital corpsman and a medic who can work at Balboa Naval Hospital, Bethesda and even Walter Reed and every other military hospital throughout the world and they can take care of our wounded warriors, but somehow they can't take care of my mother?" Borrelli asked. "That didn't make much sense."

Borrelli said he worked with the Nursing Board to compare the training of nurses and medics and found that, in many cases, they "marry up" to each other.

He said military medical training may not automatically entitle someone to a nursing license. But if there are four specific requirements and a medic already has met three, there is no reason to make that person go through full-blown nursing school, he said.

Brewer has until Tuesday to decide whether to sign the legislation.

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