- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 8, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Gov. Gina Raimondo ceremoniously signed six bills to support Rhode Island’s veterans ahead of Veterans Day.

The Democrat has told veterans she’s redoubling the state’s efforts to help them. Veterans will now be given a preference when state contracts are awarded. The state gives a similar benefit to women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

The bill sets a goal that at least 3 percent of the total value of all state contracts available to businesses in each fiscal year be awarded to veteran-owned companies. It’s a way to leverage the state’s buying power to help ensure veterans are employed after they leave the military and their businesses succeed, said Democratic state Sen. Marc Cote, who pushed for the bill since 2014.

Raimondo signed bills Tuesday expanding the eligibility for Gold Star Families license plates, naming rooms at the new Rhode Island Veterans Home after veterans and updating an advisory committee responsible for a strategic plan on veterans’ services.

In addition to parents of service members killed in action, the plates will be available to spouses, step-parents and adoptive parents, children and siblings. Raimondo said at a state house ceremony that the state’s more than 70,000 veterans deserve these bills and better service, WLNE-TV reported. Veterans Day is Saturday.

The state also designated Oct. 23 as a day to commemorate the nine Rhode Island Marines killed in the 1983 bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.

“Our veterans have bravely sacrificed so much for us all and they deserve to be treated as the heroes they are,” Rep. Samuel Azzinaro, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement Wednesday.

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