SB 2306: License reciprocity for military families
North Dakota has a long history of supporting military installations with both our Air Force bases in Minot and Grand Forks and the National Guard presence. The military endeavors active in the state bring an estimated $1.15 billion boost annually to the state’s economy. Along with these significant economic impacts, these military installations provide jobs and resources to their communities.
The Air Force bases are critical to the local economies but also serve as a part of the global strategy for the U.S. military. To ensure they remain relevant, bases are periodically subjected to a Base Realignment and Closure assessments (BRAC). In 2017, a report identified the Air Force as potentially needing to reduce its overall infrastructure due to a perceived excess. North Dakota has survived past BRAC assessments but could see stricter scrutiny going forward.
When we think of our military installations, the missions and work often overshadow the family impacts of those serving. The “trailing spouse,” or the individual who follows the service member, becomes an important part of the picture. Not only offering support for service members and the families, but they can bring needed skillsets and experience to our workplaces. Quality of life components for military personal, including their spouses and family, are important measurables within a BRAC. In 2018, the secretaries of the Navy, Army, and Air Force issued a letter to all governors through the National Governors Association stressing the importance of education and licensure reciprocity for service members and their dependents.
During the recent legislative session, Senator Scott Meyer from Grand Forks, introduced a bill (Senate Bill 2306) that would remove barriers for military spouses holding a current, in good-standing occupational licenses to transfer with reciprocity into North Dakota. Trailing spouses carry licenses in the fields of nursing, teaching and social work, which are of great need in our state.
Senator Meyer said North Dakota needs to make sure it is taking care of the families of the military members. "That spouse is typically the one staying behind because they have to button up the house and move, and take care of the kids," Meyer said. "If it becomes onerous to transfer their licenses, sometimes they don't come with."
With support from the local chambers whose bases are impactful to the success of their economies and the Greater North Dakota Chamber, SB 2306 passed and was signed into law. This accomplished two important things: it directly benefited the trailing spouse of a service member and helped address a potential solution for the North Dakota workforce challenge.
Currently, there are 7,000 family members accompanying service members at North Dakota’s bases who could benefit from this law. November is also National Military Family Month.
Photo credit to Getty Images.