Sen. Rabin plans bid to retain seat

Legislator hopes to 'continue my efforts'
Jan. 10, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Just days after he was named co-chair of a new committee aimed at helping veterans enter the civilian workforce more quickly, state Sen. Ronald Rabin has announced he will seek re-election.

Rabin's seat expires in November, so getting re-elected would be necessary to continue serving on that committee — and fulfilling the rest of his legislative duties — through 2016.

Rabin, 81, is a first-term Republican who represents Lee and Harnett counties, as well as a part of Johnston County, in the state Senate. No one has publicly announced plans to contest him in either the primary or general election, although the deadline is still months away.

In a press release issued Thursday morning, Rabin thanked his constituents for their support and said he was honored to have been part of the conservative majority that made sweeping changes last year.

"I believe our accomplishments will have a lasting and positive effect on our quality of life, which is why I hope to continue my efforts in the General Assembly," he is quoted as saying.

Many of those accomplishments were achieved through party-line votes and attracted partisan criticism. But in a recent interview, Rabin said his new committee will aim for bipartisan solutions to a problem he said is about people, not politics.

The committee's official name is a mouthful, the Committee on Civilian Credit for Military Training and State Adjutant General Selection Criteria, a joint House and Senate non-standing research committee.

Essentially, it was set up to find ways to let veterans with certain skills — nursing or heavy equipment operation, for example — bypass all or parts of the certification process people generally have to go through to be able to hold such jobs in the civilian world. There will also be an unrelated focus on the adjutant general, who is the commander of the state's military forces.

The workforce development research will be a two-pronged task, Rabin said: Identify ways to let people with relevant military experience get credit without having to go through the same process as others without that specialized training, and make sure that their recommendations are generally acceptable to the academic community and regulatory bodies.

"We have the fourth-largest military footprint in the U.S.," Rabin said. "And the military is the second-biggest economic engine in the state (behind agriculture), so this would help retain more of that talent."

North Carolina now has a shortage of thousands of registered nurses and physicians' assistants, for example, Rabin said; why not identify redundancies between military and civilian training and let military-trained medics enter those fields after an abbreviated course of study that only covers whatever the military training didn't?

"Somehow we have to figure out how to fill that gap because that's a quality of life issue, especially in rural communities," he said.

Returning veterans who want to become licensed as a nurse, mechanic or other job requiring certification generally go through the state community college system — either for a two-year associate's degree or a shorter certificate program. Rabin said he's not knocking those schools; he just thinks there could be a way to streamline the process.

At Central Carolina Community College, several people and programs are in place specifically for veterans. Tracey Gross, the college's Veterans Affairs coordinator, helps enrolled students. And Aaron Mabe, as the Veterans Upward Bound academic advisor, helps prospective students.

Gross couldn't be reached for comment, but Mabe said his program — which was created in 2012 by a five-year, $1.23 million grant from the federal government — gives veterans all sorts of free aid. There are college tours and financial aid seminars, he said, as well as academic programs like refresher courses on various subjects and a career advising program.

"I think that CCCC is really supportive of the individual veteran's training," he said. "For individuals like that, we typically advise them to go to a certificate program because that's a year-long program. ... A lot of times, individuals will get that and start working, then come back part time to finish their degrees."

Rabin, though, said that if North Carolina could streamline the process of getting veterans into the workforce as quickly as possible, it could be a huge boon for the individuals, as well as a way to entice businesses to the state, creating even more jobs.

Reports from the committee are expected in 2014 and again in 2015; Rabin said they're very welcoming of public comment and that if people have input, they should contact his office or other committee members.