Veterans Preference Bill Passes Tennessee House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If you've served your country, you must be given a leg up if you come home and want a state job.

That would become the law under a bill that passed the state House Thursday on an 89-4 vote.

It follows a NewsChannel 5 investigation that revealed how the TBI was essentially ignoring a law that was intended to protect veterans.

 "Once they understood and actually saw the story on NewsChannel 5 about the TBI, I think that sold them," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville.

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Our investigation revealed how the TBI routinely ignored the law passed in 2012 that said preference "will" be given to veterans, interpreting it as "may" be given.

TBI Director Mark Gwyn told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "I don't believe there was ever any intent to force any agency head to hire anybody."

The bill, as amended, would charge the word "will" to "shall."

And that one simple change, lawmakers said, will make it clear that veterans preference isn't something that agencies like the TBI can simply choose to ignore.

"We wanted to make it crystal clear that the state of Tennessee wants to give our veterans a hiring preference," said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville.

Earlier this week, that same bill passed out of a Senate committee on a unanimous vote, meaning it's likely well on its way to becoming law.

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