Reynolds School professor details how a legislative session ensured Veterans Day is always observed

Bob Felten explains why Friday is a legal holiday this week

Professor Bob Felton poses in front of American flags decorating the lawn in front of the Joe Crowley Student Union.

11/8/2017 | By: Bob  Felten |

It starts in the mid 70s when I was a reporter at the Reno Evening Gazette. (Yes, this was when there were two daily newspapers in Reno). One of my editors, the gentleman Bob Nitsche, asked me to write a story about several perennial candidates for public office. These men ran regularly, but were never elected.

I got to know three of them and wrote a story mostly about how their candidacies were an expression of personal civic involvement. One of the men - I wish I could remember his name - was a World War II veteran deeply involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Fast forward several years and I'm the Communications Coordinator for the State of Nevada Employees Association - an organization representing the state's classified employees. My responsibilities included reporting to the members about legislative activities, so I was frequently at the Legislature and in Legislative committee meetings.

In those days, there was a great deal of hanging around in the halls of the Legislature waiting for meetings to start or hoping to catch a key legislator for a quick conversation. My friend the veteran was in the halls regularly and we would talk every once in a while.

Paid holidays are one of the areas employee organizations look at as part of the overall employment package. A holiday that falls on a weekend meant employees working a regular Monday to Friday week would lose one paid holiday. At that time, the November 11 Veterans Day holiday was a bit of an outlier. The law around other important holidays including July 4, December 25 and others designated either the following Monday or the preceding Friday as a legal holiday. That was not the case for November 11, Veterans Day. So, our organization with the help of a friendly legislator introduced what we thought was a simple bill to put Veterans Day into the same category as those other holidays. We heard no opposition to the bill and expected it to pass easily.

That didn't happen. The bill sat in an Assembly committee for weeks without a hearing scheduled. Finally, word came down to my boss, the lead lobbyist for our group, that "the veterans" didn't like the bill.

Politicians then, as now, really wanted the support of veterans, so this opposition was a big problem. Veterans groups were very protective of "their" holiday. They didn't want anyone messing with it and apparently on some level were concerned our bill was the first step in putting Veterans Day into a lower tier of holidays - think Columbus Day. Additionally, our friendly legislators told my boss "the veterans" didn't trust him because of some forgettable slight.

The lobbyist for "the veterans" was my old friend, the perennial candidate. So, I talked to him, assured him we had no "evil" intent and the bill merely put Veterans Day in the same category of holiday as those most important and beloved such as the Fourth of July.

Within a few days, the bill passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor.

I always feel a little ownership of the holiday whenever November 11 falls on a weekend and the legal holiday is either that Friday or Monday. I'm sure our bill or one like it would have passed at some point, but in that Legislative session way back then, I played a key role in making this Friday a legal holiday. Enjoy.


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