Legislative Impacts at the local (state) level.
One big issue that affects our active duty spouses is being able to obtain meaningful employment or continuing their employment in their professional occupation each time the family PCS's. A huge cause is each states' Professional Occupational Licensing requirements and the various programs. Each professional occupation licensing board, which can run from tattoo artist to nurse (and all points in between), determines the specific requirements to hold a license within that state; meaning there is no national standard. So when a spouse who holds a licenses in state X PCS's to state C, they often have to start over, pay large fees and have long delays while awaiting their license so they can continue in their chosen profession. And with recent studies showing unemployment rates among military spouses around 24% (not including those underemployed) the issue's impacts go even further.
Here in South Dakota it was (was!) a big issue.
About a year ago I had talked with the chair of the Military and Government affairs committee of the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce on the subject and learned a whole lot of the background of the situation and what discussions, etc. were ongoing within the chamber, the business community and many of the state legislators. A couple of months later I met with the South Dakota Secretary of Veterans Affairs to discuss the issue as well. One key take away is that this extends beyond Ellsworth AFB, and beyond Rapid City. Active duty military (all services) assigned as recruiters across the state were impacted as well.
Flash forward to Saturday January 5, 2019. I had seen on Facebook that the TEAM Ellsworth Spouses Club was having a special forum to discuss the issue with the Chamber as well as start a push to engage the legislature at the upcoming 2019 legislative session. I attended the forum and my eyes and ears were opened to here dozens of personal stories from frustrated spouses, who held advanced degrees and professional certifications but were stymied by the current licensing laws and processes. As it came for my time to speak, I introduced myself and said that as the AFSA Chapter 951 legislative trustee I would write letters and send emails to all the legislators representing the various districts in and around Ellsworth as well as the new Governor and the new SecVet asking for their consideration and support for any upcoming legislation on the issue. I also included a copy of the 23 Feb 2018 letter from all the Service Secretaries to all 50 governors reiterating that this issue was a great concern and will be a consideration for all future basing decisions.
A total of 20 letters (and attachments) were sent out that afternoon.
On Sunday January 6 2019 I started to receive replies, from the sponsors and co-sponsors of SD House Bill 1111 to "provide for professional or occupational licensure for certain active duty military personnel and spouses". By Monday I had received some eight replies, all confirming their support. The first Saturday in February was the first "Cracker Barrel" session, where state legislators come back from the ongoing session to speak with the constituents on some highlight bills and take questions. I along with a few of the key spouses attended the session, fully prepared to "battle it out" with the legislators. To our surprise, HB 1111 was the first item of discussion and all twelve legislators present were supportive and reported that the bill passed unanimously through committee and would meet the full house the following week.
Surprised, we all sat and tracked the bill's progress via the SD Legislature's website. Passed unanimously through full house, passed unanimously through joint committee, passed unanimously through full senate, and on to the Governor for signature. All this from the initial reading (entrance) on 25 January to 11 March. On the website there's an area for comments, so I took the opportunity to thank all the legislators and to urge the Governor to sign at the earliest opportunity.
On 21 Mar having heard no progress, I contact the Governor via her website to ask about when the bill would be signed. To my surprise about a couple of hours later I received her reply: "Hi Kevin - HB 1111 was actually signed earlier today! Thank you for reaching out."
So what does HB 1111 do for the spouses of Active Duty military members stationed in the State of South Dakota?
Professional or Occupational License, Certificate, Registration, or Permit within 30 days of receipt of complete application for those who already hold such a document from another US state. AND That License, Certificate, Registration, or Permit be issued without any fees!
Now a military member can PCS to South Dakota and their working spouse can seamlessly continue their professional occupation if they choose. The State of South Dakota gains fully qualified and experienced workers while the military family has a much less stressful transition. A true win-win for all parties!
Proud to be part of AFSA, Proud to serve the Military Members, Veterans, Retirees, and the Family Members of South Dakota!
Kevin Ott, CMSgt (ret)
AFSA Chapter 951 Legislative Trustee
AFSA Div 3 Legislative Trustee