Assembly Republicans score victory for service-disabled veterans

Assembly Republicans score victory for service-disabled veterans

TRENTON, N.J. – Assembly Republicans successfully pushed through an amendment to include service-disabled veterans in a bill targeting economically and socially disadvantaged businesses.

The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee convened Thursday to consider a bill (A2146) that would help such businesses win state contracts for construction, architecture and engineering projects, as well as professional, goods, and information technology services.

Those with physical disabilities are included among the socially disadvantaged in the bill’s original language. However, Assemblyman Brian Bergen, an Apache helicopter pilot during Operation Iraqi Freedom and business owner, opposed the bill’s implicit exclusion of service-disabled veterans.

“Someone with a service-connected disability may not be considered disabled by other standards, and they should not have to justify their disability to any organization except by way of proof that the Veterans Administration has deemed them as disabled,” Bergen (R-Morris) said. “I fundamentally object to any programs that carve out specific populations for statewide preference in contracts that do not actively include the veterans as well. In this case, due to the nature of the bill’s intent, service-disabled veterans specifically should be included.”

The Republican committee members—Robert Auth, John Catalano, Aura Dunn and Marilyn Piperno—supported Bergen’s amendment and approached the bill’s Democrat sponsors for the change, which was accepted and unanimously voted out of committee. The amended bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations committee for further consideration.

Auth, the senior Republican member of the commerce committee, praised the bipartisanship to help business owners with service-related disabilities.

“We’re grateful that our colleagues across the aisle agreed with us that it is important to include service-disabled veterans in the bill’s language,” Auth (R-Bergen) said. “Republican-led improvements aren’t always embraced, but we are grateful the sponsors saw fit to include our request.”