A bill that would allow businesses to give a voluntary preference in hiring new military veteran employees gained more support this week before its upcoming vote in the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee later this month.
Authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), Senate Bill 665 would formally authorize private employers to establish and maintain a written veterans’ preference employment policy, to be applied uniformly to hiring decisions, to give a voluntary preference for hiring or retaining a veteran over another qualified applicant or employee. If approved, employers with such a veterans’ preference employment policy would need to annually report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing the number of veterans hired or retained under the policy, as well as demographic information about hired veterans.
SB 665, also known as the Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act, would also prohibit a veterans’ preference employment policy from being established or applied for the purpose of discriminating against an employment applicant on the basis of a protected classification.
Senator Umberg, a retired Army Colonel, wrote the bill largely as a way to expand veteran hiring and to help ease the transition from between being in the military to a civilian career.
“We have a moral obligation to treat our veterans with dignity because they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our Constitution,” said the Senator after SB 665 passed the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee by a vote of 7-0 in June. “SB 665 honors and recognizes the sacrifices of our veterans. Transitioning from service to civilian workforce is not always easy. By offering a voluntary hiring preference for veterans to the private sector serves as a tool to help young men and women who served and assist in building a career.”
Since being introduced in February, the bill has had little way in terms of opposition. To date, it has passed every Assembly and Senate committee it has been voted on unanimously, even passing the Senate 32-0. Bipartisan support, as well as support through dozens of local, state, and national veterans organizations, have ensured passage every vote.
This week, several Assembly members who had previously not committed or signaled a vote firmly changed course to support the bill following the months of support buildup changing their mind.
“Can you imagine someone voting against this bill? It is amazing that some here were even considering it,” said “Dana” a State Capitol staffer to the Globe on Thursday. “But all it takes is a talk with a veteran or two to realize that, even with favorable hiring policies and federal hirings largely favoring veterans, it is still hard to nail down a job and even keep a job. Two out of three vets leave a job within 2 years.”
“And if that wasn’t enough to convince people here, a lot of voters would not look kindly upon lawmakers who decided to vote against this bill to make some sort of point. But this week the tide really pushed those last remaining holdouts, with one even saying that you couldn’t ‘argue with the data’ that this bill would help vets.”
“So, pretty much any doubt about [SB 665] is now gone. Hearings and votes are just a formality at this point.”
If passed, California will become the 40th state to have legislation that allows for private employer veteran hiring and retention preference. SB 665 is expected to be heard in the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee later this month.