The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 5, 2014

Bill would grant holiday off for vets

ST. PAUL (AP) — With some resistance, legislation giving military veterans a legal right to Veterans Day off from work advanced Wednesday in the Minnesota Legislature.

In pitching his bill, Rep. Andrew Falk called Nov. 11 a day of honor that veterans have earned but that not all get to fully mark. His bill would require employers to approve time off for documented veterans as long as a request is made a month ahead of time. Their absence also could not affect public health and safety or cause a significant operational disruption.

"We want to make sure those veterans have an option to go and observe a day dedicated to them in a way they choose," Falk, DFL-Murdock, told the House State Government Finance and Veterans Affairs Committee before a divided voice vote moved it along.

The measure was widely praised for its aim but encountered opposition from some lawmakers who worried it could create a hardship for employers. One legislator argued it didn't go far enough and should accommodate family members who have made sacrifices, too.

"What about the spouse of the veteran who managed for eight months with four kids and waited for the soldier to come home?" said Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, the committee's leader.

Falk said he didn't intend to expand the bill's scope.

Stephanie Vorvick, a veterans services officer for Chippewa County, said more than 245,000 veterans in the state are younger than retirement age and have no guarantee now that they can get the time off.

"These veterans, they deserve this day. They are the ones who have earned it," she said.

Similar Veterans Day proposals have become law in Iowa and Oregon. A federal version was introduced last fall in Congress but hasn't made any progress.

The Minnesota bill would leave it up to the employer to decide whether the time off comes with pay or not. And there is no defined recourse for employees whose requests are denied.

Rep. Ernie Leidiger, a former naval officer, said creating a government entitlement for a day off didn't feel right to him.

"I don't think this is what veterans are looking for, asking for or want," said Leidiger, R-Mayer.

A Senate committee was due to discuss a companion bill later Wednesday.

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