- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

WARREN, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo told veterans Tuesday that she’s redoubling the state’s efforts to help them.

The Democrat ceremoniously signed six bills affecting veterans that she said demonstrates the state’s commitment. Her audience at Warren Town Hall included representatives from Rhode Island’s veterans’ organizations.

“It is our duty to take care of our vets, who served for us,” she said.

Raimondo said she wants state officials to reach out to veterans to find out what they need and to do more to help them get jobs. She encouraged every business in the state to hire a veteran.

The new laws allow private employers to provide hiring preferences for veterans and protect jobs for Rhode Island residents serving in the National Guard. Veterans applying for benefits can now get free copies of medical records.

Another law bans dogs from Rhode Island’s veterans’ cemetery, with the exception of service animals. Families of those buried in the cemetery complained that dog owners were using the grounds as a dog park, and called for a ban on pets out of respect to the fallen.

The governor said the state hasn’t done enough in recent years to care for its more than 70,000 veterans and they deserve a proper homecoming.

Several veterans in attendance praised the new laws and echoed Raimondo’s comments that the state needs to do more. They want Rhode Island to offer additional tax relief for veterans.

Raimondo said she’d like to do so, but noted that she’s dealing with a budget deficit.

In February, Raimondo appointed the first director to lead the state’s veterans’ affairs division.

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