- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Veterans could receive preferential treatment in the hiring and promotion decisions of private businesses under a bill an Iowa House panel approved Tuesday.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted in favor of the measure that would allow private sector employers to grant preference to veterans when deciding who to hire or promote. The bill now goes to the House floor.

State and local governments already can give hiring preference to veterans. The bill clarifies that it is legal for the private sector to do so as well.

Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull, who chairs the committee, said the legislation would permit employers to recognize the skills veterans gain during their service as another reason to hire them. A veteran’s background fosters a positive work ethic and teamwork, therefore meriting the preferential treatment an employer can provide, Alons said.

“I think it is the recognition of people that have gone through the service, have served their country,” he said.

If two individuals have equal qualifications for a position, for example, but one is a military veteran, an employer has the option to judge the veteran more favorably without running into problems with equal opportunity laws, Alons said.

Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said the bill is part of the governor’s plan to support veterans already in Iowa and attract others to the state.

Alons said the bill would also expand upon preferences allowed for veterans in federal positions.

The bill doesn’t mandate preferential treatment for veterans. Rather, it allows a private business to determine whether that preferential treatment will be carried out.

The legislation would also extend to surviving spouses of armed forces members who died while serving on active duty and spouses of veterans permanently disabled as a result of service.

Alons said he feels positive about the bill moving forward and doesn’t foresee any roadblocks on the House floor.

“I think with the bipartisan, strong support here in committee, it should move in a good direction on the floor,” he said. “I anticipate not really having any trouble at this point.”