NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

LINCOLN — The cellphone reception is iffy inside the barracks on Offutt Air Force Base, State Veterans' Affairs Director John Hilgert told a legislative committee Thursday.

That problem could be addressed if better coordination existed among the base, cellphone providers and other stakeholders, he said.

Such a "point person" on military and veterans issues would be hired by the state under Legislative Bill 754, sponsored by Bellevue State Sen. Sue Crawford.

"Many of the people that advocate for our military and Nebraska have other jobs," Hilgert said. A point person could do a lot of that kind of work, on issues both big and small, he said.

Under Crawford's bill, the military affairs liaison would be tasked to work with Gov. Pete Ricketts to, among other things, help the state attract and retain missions such as Offutt's 55th Wing and others across Nebraska's other military installations.

The measure would cost the state $86,000 the first year and $133,000 in the second year, according to a legislative fiscal estimate.

The liaison would be selected by a newly created commission on military and veterans and issues.

At the governor's suggestion, Crawford offered an amendment to shrink that group from six voting members and 18 nonvoting members to six voting members and four nonvoting members.

The amendment also moves where the liaison would be housed: from the Department of Economic Development to the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Such commissions have been effective in other states, including Kentucky, which, after creating its commission, saw annual defense spending more than triple, to $8.3 billion a year, Crawford said.

At Thursday's hearing, the bill drew no opposition. The committee took no action.

Contact the writer: 402-473-9581, emily.nohr@owh.com

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