New law allows military spouses to transfer professional licenses

Col. Jay Johnson

ENID, Okla. — A new bill that went into effect Friday aims to improve quality of life for military families in Oklahoma, by allowing military spouses to transfer professional licenses and credentials from other states.

Senate Bill 670, authored by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May, amends the Post-Military Service Occupation, Education and Credentialing Act and "authorizes active duty military personnel and their spouses to request in advance a temporary, reciprocal occupational license from the state upon receiving orders to discharge or transfer to Oklahoma," according to a state Senate press release.

The law requires state agencies to ensure the applicants for temporary licenses have equivalent education, training, and experience to an Oklahoma license, with a valid license or certification from another state, within 30 days of receiving the request.

In a May press release, Pugh said the measure "creates a more welcoming environment for military families who move to Oklahoma."

“Military life by nature is transient and typically comes with a level of unsettledness as military families are continuously asked to relocate and adapt to new communities, but this bill will alleviate some of those adjustment pains that come with a military move,” said Pugh.

“By ensuring they’re able to transition quickly back into their professions and offering reciprocity for occupational licensing for military families, we can help make the stressful time of re-settlement after a move a little easier for those who serve our nation,” he added.

Col. Jay Johnson, vice commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, said licensing reciprocity is an important part of improving quality of life for military families.

“While the Air Force recruits individuals for their unique talents, retention is often about convincing families to stay," Johnson said. "Licensing reciprocity for military spouses is a key tool in retaining families as it eases the burden on spouses trying to maintain professional careers.”

Moving from base to base is a normal part of business for military members. But, for their spouses and families, it can mean significant loss of income if a spouse with a professional career can't transfer their licensing.

“The financial burden of spouses having to renew professional licenses and meet different state requirements can be significant as it often involves exam and registration fees," Johnson said. "This new legislation is a win-win for Vance Air Force Base and the state. It helps military spouses continue their professional careers and provides a highly-qualified workforce to the local community.”

Mike Cooper, city of Enid military liaison and chairman of Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, agreed with that win-win assessment.

"It's important for the military family because you have people with experience and training who want to get to work," Cooper said, "and the quicker we can get them to work in Oklahoma, the better for all of us."

Cooper said all branches of the service have requested the licensing reciprocity measure of states' governors. He said SB670 puts Oklahoma in a good position compared to other states with military bases.

"Oklahoma is one of the first states to step up and get that done," Cooper said. "I think we're a very military-friendly state, so we do everything to encourage mission capability and reduce cost, but also improving the quality of life of the military family is very important."

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
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