A Utah House committee gave the nod Wednesday to legislation that reorganizes the Department of Veterans Affairs, giving it responsibility for forging relationships with military installations like Hill Air Force Base.
The House Public Utilities and Technology Committee unanimously endorsed HB395, which is sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper.
The bill was sought by Gov. Gary Herbert, who in December asked longtime Veterans Affairs Executive Director Terry Schow to retire. He also announced appointment of his presumed replacement, Gary Harter, a retired Army colonel who has worked in state economic development. Harter is now working as an adviser on veterans and military services.
Frank Maughan, chairman of the Utah Veterans Advisory Council and prominent in other veterans groups, gave a tepid endorsement to the bill Wednesday.
"It's fair to say that the consensus is [that] this is as good as it's going to get," Maughan said. "The more militant of my constituents say why spend a year learning how bad this is."
Brian Garrett, also a member of the council and active in Chamber of Commerce veterans committees said the new department will help veterans find jobs on Utah's military bases.
Iraq veteran Matthew Stuart, vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he believes there's much to be gained by the reorganized department in data sharing and coordination.
Hughes said his bill will make for a stronger department with a bigger budget.
"It is not the intent … to dilute or distract from the mission of serving our veterans," Hughes said.