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Lawmakers want percentage of road jobs to go to veterans

The measure, which is sponsored by Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), calls for states that receive federal money for transportation projects to include veteran-owned businesses in their contracting processes. (The Trucker file photo)

The Associated Press

4/9/2015

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is filling legislation to require states to offer a percentage of construction jobs related to transportation projects to veterans.  

The measure, which is sponsored by Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), calls for states that receive federal money for transportation projects to include veteran-owned businesses in their contracting processes.

The sponsors said the measure, which has been dubbed the "Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act" (H.R. 1694), would "level the playing field in federal contracting for veteran-owned businesses by providing veterans access to existing preferences authorized for transportation projects."

"With more than 75 percent of current veteran business owners over the age 55, it is critical we empower the next generation of veteran-owned businesses to get to work upgrading our nation’s roads, rails and bridges,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

“Our veterans are the most highly skilled workforce in America’s history – the product of rigorous training, an iron-clad commitment to teamwork and the remarkable ability to succeed where others might fail," he continued. "We need Fairness to Veterans so we are leveraging the unique strengths of veteran entrepreneurs to address the challenges at home.”

The measure comes as lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to pay for an extension of the transportation funding measure, which is currently scheduled to expire on May 31.

The sponsors of the legislation said there are 380,000 construction firms that are owned by veterans in the U.S. that could help build projects across the nation.

"Rebuilding our nation’s transportation infrastructure is essential to growing our economy and creating jobs,” Bustos said. “The veterans who served us so honorably deserve our full support and that starts with making sure they have good-paying jobs here at home. Not only will this bipartisan effort help get veterans back to work, but it will also help rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels, and rail lines.”

Young agreed, saying "as our men and women in uniform return home from combat and begin transitioning into their civilian lives, it’s important to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed.”

“There’s no question that America’s veterans, who have sacrificed so much for the greater good, are able and ready to put their battle tested skills towards improving our nation’s roads, highways, and critical infrastructure projects," Young continued.

The American Legion applauded the introduction of the legislation on Wednesday, saying it was a long overdue improvement for veteran business owners.

"It is a misconception that Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program only excludes veteran owned road and infrastructure construction firms. There are in fact a variety of industries involved, so this is an issue that affects all veteran owned small businesses,” said Joe Sharpe, director of the American Legion’s National Veterans’ Employment and Education Division, in a statement.

“The American Legion has worked with Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and other leaders to ensure that veterans are not disadvantaged by other government procurement program established by law," Sharpe continued. "The Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act is a simple and effective approach that levels the playing field for our veteran small business owners."

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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