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MN VA could gain new position aimed at public outreach

The Department of Veterans Affairs could get another tool for veteran outreach.

On Wednesday, the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee unanimously approved HF484, which would allow the department to hire a publicity agent.

Currently, departments, bureaus and divisions aren't allowed to hire publicity agents unless specifically given permission to under state law. Just five have that authority: Department of Transportation, Department of Employment and Economic Development, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division, State Agricultural Society, and Explore Minnesota Tourism.

Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls) sponsors the bill, which now heads to the House Floor. Its companion, SF364, is sponsored by Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-Eden Prairie) and awaits action by the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee.

Ben Johnson, legislative director for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said publicity agents could allow the agency to have more targeted outreach to veterans.

He said there wouldn't be an additional cost to the agency, because it would use its existing communications budget to hire for the position.

Rep. Donald Raleigh (R-Circle Pines) encouraged the department to use the position to spread the word about veteran suicide.

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