New Kentucky Law Streamlines Occupational Licensing for Military-Affiliated Professionals

On March 26, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed HB 323, which will improve occupational licensure portability for veterans, military spouses, and National Guard and Reserve members.1 The bill will require administrative bodies that issue occupational licenses and other regulatory authorizations to endorse and license any applicant that is a member of the National Guard or Reserves, a veteran, or the spouse of a veteran or military member, provided he or she possesses or recently possessed an equivalent license in another state.

The out-of-state license will not be considered for recognition if the license has been expired for more than two years; the license has been revoked for disciplinary reasons or is otherwise not in good standing; or if the applicant demonstrates a substantive deficiency in training, education or experience that could pose a health or safety risk to the public.

While well-intentioned, occupational licensure has been linked to some unfavorable economic effects, such as increased unemployment, higher prices and muted geographic mobility.2,3,4 With over 25 percent of U.S. workers possessing a license, the ubiquity of occupational licensing can exacerbate the difficulty job seekers with military affiliation already have in securing employment.5

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, various military occupations offer training and experience in skills that are applicable to at least 962 disparate civilian occupations.6 Nevertheless, veterans routinely cite obtaining employment as one of the most challenging aspects of transitioning to civilian life.7 Occupational licensing regulations can magnify this difficulty when states fail to recognize out-of-state licenses and disallow applicants to use military experience and training in lieu of civilian credentials to fulfill licensing requirements. 

Spouses of military service members are particularly disadvantaged by licensing due to their propensity to work in tightly regulated industries (e.g., education, nursing and child care) and their frequent relocation across state lines.8 Specifically, military spouses are ten times more likely to have moved across state lines in the past year relative to their civilian counterparts.8 Because licensing procedures are largely determined by boards at the state level and can vary considerably, military spouses seeking to maintain licensure throughout geographic relocation can face substantial encumbrances.

The Kentucky bill should help alleviate some of these issues faced by veterans, military members and their spouses. By requiring licensing boards to endorse out-of-state licenses for military-affiliated applicants, the monetary and time costs of licensure are markedly reduced, potentially providing more employment opportunities for veterans, military members and especially their spouses.

Other states have taken similar legislative action to try to remove barriers to work for military-affiliated individuals seeking licensure. Alabama HB 388 (2018), which was signed last year, requires licensing boards to endorse military spouses licensed in another state with equally or more rigorous licensing standards.9 The bill also contains a provision that creates a temporary license for applicants from states with less stringent licensing requirements.

Vermont H 906 (2018) went into effect last year and sought to reduce the amount of redundant retraining members of the military must undergo to be eligible for a license.10 To that end, the bill credits members of the military with civilian experience and training for comparable military credentials.

As states continue to reassess their occupational licensing framework for unsound and overly burdensome provisions, a focus on reducing inefficient barriers and fostering license portability for veterans and military families is an important component that can ensure both efficient labor market utilization and public safety.

Sources

  1. Kentucky General Assembly. HB 323: AN ACT relating to reciprocal occupational licensure for members of the United States military, reserves, National Guard, veterans, and their spouses. 2019. Retrieved from https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/19RS/hb323/orig_bill.pdf
  2. Blair, P. Q., & Chung, B. W. (2018). How Much of Barrier to Entry is Occupational Licensing? (No. w25262). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  3. Kleiner, M. M., Marier, A., Park, K. W., & Wing, C. (2016). Relaxing occupational licensing requirements: Analyzing wages and prices for a medical service. The Journal of Law and Economics, 59(2), 261-291.
  4. Johnson, J. E., & Kleiner, M. M. (2017). Is Occupational Licensing a Barrier to Interstate Migration? (No. w24107). National Bureau of Economic Research.
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Data on certificates and licensing. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat49.pdf
  6. U.S. Department of Labor. 2014. PILOT STUDY Translating Military Skills to Civilian Employment. Retrieved from https://wdr.doleta.gov/research/FullText_Documents/Pilot_Study_Translating_Military_Skills_to_Civilian_Employment_Acc.pdf
  7. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (2019). 2019 Member Survey. Retrieved from https://cultureondemand.com/iava-2019/
  8. U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of Defense. 2012. Supporting Our Military Families: Best Practices for Streamlining Occupational Licensing across State Lines. Retrieved from http://archive.defense.gov/home/pdf/Occupational_Licensing_and_Military_Spouses_Report_vFINAL.PDF
  9. The Alabama Legislature. HB 388: Military Family Jobs Opportunity Act. 2018. Retrieved from http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2018RS/PrintFiles/HB388-int.pdf
  10. Vermont General Assembly. H.906 (Act 119): An act relating to professional licensing for service members and veterans. 2018. Retrieved from https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2018/Docs/ACTS/ACT119/ACT119%20As%20Enacted.pdf

States Explore Occupational Licensure Reform

The consortium of states participating in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Practice project recently began their second round of project meetings to discuss occupational license reform. The 11 states–Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Wisconsin–are individually meeting to further review their licensure process, engage with policy experts and develop action plans. The state team meetings will culminate this year in the project’s second multistate learning consortium summit to be held Nov. 28-30 in Clearwater, Florida.

The Council of State Governments, along with its project partners the National Conference of State Legislators and the National Governors Association, continues to deliver technical assistance to the states during the project by facilitating meetings, issuing policy reports and collecting state licensing data. The partners recently published four reports that focus on the unique challenges and barriers specific to immigrants with work authorizationpeople with criminal recordslow-income, unemployed & dislocated workers; and veterans and military spouses.

The following is an update on the progress some of the states have made during the second round of meetings.

Kentucky

The Kentucky team’s meeting on Sept. 19 provided the group an opportunity to learn about the differences in state regulatory board structures as well as discuss opportunities for further research including sunrise/sunset review legislation.

“Occupational licensure is a topic that really encompasses a multitude of policy areas including workforce and economic development and veterans’ affairs,” said Brian Houillion, chief of staff and executive director of financial management and administration for the Kentucky Department for Local Government. “The goal is to take a look at what regulatory framework will best serve the needs of the state. For example, during the meeting we explored the different types of state regulatory board structures as part of our ongoing conversation on finding ways to improve our licensure board system.”

Kentucky was also recently awarded an additional $450,000 Department of Labor grant to further help improve the licensure process in the state.

“The grant allowed us to bring on a grant and project administrator to better facilitate the process of licensing reform,” said Houillion. “The additional staff will assist the state’s project team to complete the smaller steps that occur between meetings and stay on objective.”

Utah

During Utah’s Sept. 21 project meeting, the team learned from policy experts about competency-based testing, improving the processes of sunrise/sunset provisions, and licensure burdens specific to immigrants.

Utah state Sen. Todd Weiler, who is a member the state’s Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee, said the meeting was a continuation of the team “doing its due diligence by taking deep dives into policy areas and learning from the experts.” He added that one of the team’s primary purposes was to “do the laboring work before the Legislature considers additional reform.”

“Utah is in a transition state as it moves from an older model to a more up to date approach,” he added. “The project team is answering the questions about the health and safety objectives to be achieved through licensure and how to step away from the turf battle of professions and focus on how the customer is best served. The pendulum has swung to decrease regulation wherever it makes sense.”

Utah enacted a number of occupational licensure reform legislation last year that focused on improving licensure mobility, reducing regulation and assisting relocating military families. 

Maryland

Maryland’s Sept. 25 project team meeting centered on ways to expand licensure portability and improve stakeholder messaging. Victoria Wilkins, commissioner of the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation commented on the importance of improving the state’s licensure process through the project.

“Anything that decreases regulations to get more people employed while still maintaining public health and safety is something we want to explore,” she said. “The project allows us to hold cross sectional learning meetings with a variety of stakeholders to improve the conversation about licensure.”

The state team is organized in a committee-based structure, which divides the group’s focus areas into the categories: identifying barriers, business needs, community relations, data and research, and addressing the “low hanging fruit” of licensure reform. Wilkins said the “low-hanging fruit” committee could, for example, address some licensure issues outside of the state’s legislative sessions.

“The Legislature only meets once a year, so the committee was established to identify what are some of the simpler changes that could be made in the meantime,” she said. “For instance, the passing score thresholds for plumber licensing exams were recently revised to bring them into uniformity with Maryland’s other licenses.”

The meeting’s guest speaker was Karen Goldman, attorney advisor for the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission, who presented her recently completed FTC policy report on licensure mobility. In the report, Goldman highlighted the important role that CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts serves when it comes to how states deal with structuring reciprocity. 

CSG National Conference

The Council of State Governments is providing additional opportunities for states to engage with policy experts and advance the conversation on occupational licensure reform during its annual National Conference, to be held in Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, Dec. 5-8. The conference will include multiple sessions to foster learning about licensure reciprocity through state compacts, lessons from military members and spouses state licensing policies, and specific case studies of how certain professions have handled reciprocity.

To find out more information about the conference, including how to register, please visit https://www.csg.org/2018nationalconference/Agenda18.aspx