Dettmer sponsors bills on veterans’ issues

Bill dealing with veterans preference for road contracts will be refined

T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

District 52A Rep. Bob Dettmer is seeking a civil immunity provision for volunteers in the state’s Yellow Ribbon campaign associated with the Minnesota National Guard and is also looking to improve the chances for veteran-owned small businesses to win state road construction contracts.

Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, brought his bills before the House Veterans Service Committee on Monday, Jan. 30.

The civil immunity provision, Dettmer explained, grew out of concerns voiced in the Yellow Ribbon initiative in Washington County.

Under Dettmer’s provision, civil liability immunity protections are afforded Yellow Ribbon volunteers pursuing activities helpful to veterans’ families.

Judy Seeberger, of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network, testified that her husband recently returned from a year’s oversea military deployment. While gone, Yellow Ribbon volunteers assisted her with such tasks as tree trimming and household chores.

The committee advanced the civil liability immunity provision to the House civil law committee.

A more controversial bill Dettmer is pursuing deals with changing state law — and offering the chance for counties to change their contracting practices — to allow more veteran-owned small businesses to win road construction contracts.

As proposed, Dettmer’s bill would create a stand-alone construction bid preference program for veteran-owned small business.

It would mandate the transportation department award up to a six percent preference to these small businesses. That is, a veteran-owned small business could be determined to be the low bidder on a given contract, even though the bid is six percent higher than the next lowest bid.

“This is the least we can do for them (veterans),” said Ralph Donais, of the Military Affairs Group, a national veterans organization backing the legislation.

Dettmer noted that proposed budget cuts to the Department of Defense could mean 100,000 troops could be laid-off. “They’re going to be coming home,” he said.

And they want the soldiers from Minnesota to stay in Minnesota, he said.

Currently, about five percent of state transportation construction contracts are awarded to veteran-owned business, according to a Minnesota Department of Transportation official. But the contracts are going to a relatively small number of contractors, they noted.

Associated General Contractors of Minnesota official Tim Worke expressed several concerns with the legislation. The construction industry has been enduring a near Great Depression-like loss of work, he explained.

Bids are coming in low and close. And the six percent provision in Dettmer’s bill is “really creating some concerns” and questions with contractors on how bids are determined, he said.

Moreover, smaller construction companies do not have human resources departments and are concerned about increased amounts of paperwork the legislation could bring, he said.

And beyond this, simply finding veteran-owned small business has been difficult, Worke said.

Dettmer motioned to table his veteran-owned small businesses bill, indicating that he intended to refine the legislation and bring it back.

After the committee hearing, Dettmer explained that he could have the bill back before the committee within a couple of weeks.


  • max anderson

    Special rules for a select person never works, Dettmer has spent his career in politics attempting to pass bad legislation. His legislative attempts seem to focus on specific group or persons he wants special rules for. I am wondering if Dettmer has a friend or relative that will benefit from this legislation as not many recently released veterans are going to start a road construction business requiring many hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions in start up capital.

    Our Veterans deserve a hand up when returning from service and this can be done in many ways other than passing bad laws to reward a pal, a good start would be paying them a decent wage while in the service. Many enlisted service members with families qualify for food stamps and welfare because we don’t compensate them fairly.

    Giving employers a tax benefit to employ veterans would make more sense and cover all veterans leaving the service. Governor Dayton wants to encourage businesses this year with a $3,000 tax credit every time they hire a veteran or an unemployed person, this is a program designed to help tens of thousands of people unlike the very few or one that Dettmer if trying to reward with his selective legislation.

    Here is a person that collects a public employee pension , collects a military pension and is working on collecting a legislative pension, has a taxpayer subsidized low cost health care plan available to him along with getting paid for being a legislator.

    It is time for Dettmer to work on legilation for all Minnesotans or quit, we need a representative that works for all, not the chosen few.

  • E. Baylor

    Yeah, sounds good in theory but I don’t believe you should penalize people for not being in the military. I know many hardworking people who were “not fit” to be accepted in the military (allergies, joint problems) even though they tried. Also, I wish this explained civil immunity better. Does this mean that, if someone assaults someone while working Yellow Ribbon activities, they are immune from the law? Sounds like every generic 80’s cop show…”you can’t prosecute him Cagney, he’s got diplomatic immunity”…I don’t believe anyone should be immune from the law.