New law makes it easier for vets to get AZ licenses

Military experience may be used to avoid 'redundant training'
2013-05-04T00:00:00Z New law makes it easier for vets to get AZ licensesMatthew Longdon Cronkite News Service Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX - Under a new state law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, military experience will count toward a commercial driver's license or a nursing license.

"Veterans already have their training. They've done emergency operations under fire. They're used to the high stress environment," said the law's author, Rep. Sonny Borrelli, a Lake Havasu City Republican who served 20 years in the Marines.

As they transition from military to civilian life, veterans can face a lot of "redundant training" to get a state license for something they were trained to do in the military, Borrelli said.

When the law goes into effect next year, veterans will only need to take the written tests, as long as their military training matches the state's standards.

Nursing and commercial driving can be the hardest fields for veterans to get into because of the licensing, Borrelli said. Other military jobs, such as operating a bulldozer or electrical work, don't require state certification so the veterans' experience easily applies.

This is something Corey Harris hears often. He is government liaison for the Madison Street Veterans Association and an Army veteran.

"For veterans coming home now, some that are having difficulty getting job, it gives them a leg up," Harris said. "Whenever there's a civilian licensure involved, it's difficult."

The law will give active duty service members and veterans 90 days after they're discharged to apply for either license. They will have to show proof of their experience like their military-issued driver's licenses or medical certificates.

"If they're smart, they'll do it while they're still in," Borrelli said.

The new law will reduce the barriers to employment for veterans, said David F. Lucier, president of the Arizona Veterans & Military Alliance.

"They've been out of the job market for four, six, eight years while serving," he said. "Re-entering the job market is a huge barrier."

There were at least 12 other bills dealing with veterans' issues this legislative session, ranging from a proposed Fallen Hero special license plate to extending the post-9/11 G.I. Bill on a state level. But Borrelli's bill is the only one so far to make it to the governor.

Some never received committee hearings, while others are stuck in committees. Those include HB2484 by Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, which would give businesses a $2,000 tax break for hiring a veteran and a $4,000 break for hiring a disabled veteran.

"The intent is to pass it this session," said Cardenas, an Army and National Guard veteran. "I'm doing everything I can to push it through."

Although it's held up right now, Lucier said he's optimistic that Cardenas' bill still has a chance once the state budget is figured out.

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