One of the highlights of this session has been visits with Minnesota veterans, including "Veterans' Day on the Hill" events last week.

I have been working on several pieces of legislation to assist veterans, specifically to expand opportunity and strengthen job protections for veterans and their families in the job market.

In the years since 9/11 and the war on terrorism, American veterans are currently experiencing unemployment at rates more the twice the general population and that needs to be set right.

Last week, the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee passed two bills that I co-authored that will increase employment opportunities for veterans in both the private and public sector.

One bill strengthens re-employment protections for veterans returning from service and better enables them to get their previous jobs back.

The second will give Minnesota companies the option to put in place their own "veterans hiring" programs where previously the federal government had prohibited favoring veterans during the hiring process.

I'm also co-authoring a bill that provides civil immunity for persons participating in any capacity in the Minnesota National Guard's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" program.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon community networks are groups of individuals that have volunteered to support and recognize service members and their families.

The most common services they offer are lawn mowing and snow shoveling, as well as short-term childcare. The question of volunteer liability has been raised in a couple of ways and needs to be addressed so that individuals can continue to do this good work without fear of a lawsuit against them or the program.

I am the chief author of a measure that would broaden the veterans' income-tax credit, eventually phasing out the income limit.

Since tax year 2009, Minnesota has provided a $750 individual income-tax credit to certain military retirees for their past military service. Current law fully phases out this credit at $37,500. This legislation gives the credit regardless of income.

It is notable that our neighbor Wisconsin exempts military pension income, and South Dakota has no income tax. I believe Minnesota should exempt all military pension income, but at this point with the current budget situation, this expansion is a step in the right direction.

While the best solution to full employment of veterans is a robust, growing economy for all, we need to make sure the laws we have in place encourage veterans hiring and protect their jobs once they return home.

I feel strongly that the imbalance in veteran's unemployment needs to be addressed, and that those who committed to military sacrifice should receive benefits for their service.

If you have any questions, comments or ideas on issues facing the state, please feel free to contact me at or (651) 296-5649.