Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference with Gov. Rick Perry in the governor's press room Monday, July 21, 2014, in Austin.

Eric Gay | AP

Of the many programs and legislation in place to help expand job opportunities for veterans, gubernatorial candidate and Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott is proposing waiving several state licensing requirements to put veterans back to work.

Abbott recommended waiving six occupational examination and fee requirements for veterans obtaining licenses issued by state agencies. The state-licensed occupations were identified as compatible to military training that many veterans may already possess, Abbott said.

They include air conditioning and refrigeration contractors and certified technicians, barbers, electricians, architectural registered accessibility specialists, polygraph examiners and water-well drillers and pump installers.

Abbott’s Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, was not able to provide her stance on veteran employment issues by press time.

Many of the licensing requirement tweaks Abbott proposed, however, are smaller than previous state legislation that already made extensive changes to help credit veterans’ applicable military experience during licensing application processes with House Bills 2028, 2029, 2135 and 2254.

“Right now, what we are doing is we have developed a program where veterans can gain experience from their military duty,” said Susan Stanford, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations, explaining the newer programs already in place. “So, if they are an electrician in the military they can get some corresponding experience hours.”

With House Bills 2028, 2029, 2135 and 2254, state agencies are required to credit acceptable experiences gained in the U.S. armed forces toward licensing requirements in private security, electrical work, plumbing and other occupational licenses.

Stanford said they have state specialists who review applicants’ experiences for credit.

Texas’ unemployment rates for veterans is higher compared to the state’s annual unemployment rate. Of the veterans who returned home since 9/11, 8.7 percent, or 19,000, were unemployed in 2013. Texas’ labor market showed a 6.3 percent average annual unemployment rate in 2013.

Abbott’s proposal would lower barriers for entry for veterans by exempting them from the state’s examination requirements for the proposed occupations. Service members, veterans and veteran spouses would only need to meet separate experiential requirements.

While the Texas Department of Licensing Requirements, the Defense Department and the Texas Veterans Commission previously requested examination requirements remain mandatory so Texas veterans’ occupational licenses remain viable across state lines, Abbott said the military examination requirements should cover reciprocity agreements with other states.

Contact Courtney Griffin at cgriffin@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7559

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