Illinois Business Journal staff report
A new law designed to help military members and spouses with professional licenses is getting praise from Southwestern Illinois leaders who believe it will strengthen the economic vitality of Scott Air Force Base and the surrounding community.
House Bill 1652 aims to expedite licensure reciprocity and should make it easier for service members and military spouses to work in Illinois. Military families that move around every few years will be able to more easily access and renew the professional licenses they may need for their profession. Previously, temporary professional licenses in Illinois were good for six months. Under the new law, military members and their spouses will be able to extend their licenses to three years, which is the common time span of a military assignment. With the proper credentials, military members and their spouses coming to Illinois from out of state can quickly become licensed in Illinois.
The governor signed the bill in August, and it takes effect in January.
“If this legislation helps just one military spouse continue their career path, then it will be a success,” said Col. Glenn Collins. “Military spouses are resilient, great people with strong leadership skills and work ethic.”
Collins is the commander of the 932nd Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve Command unit located at Scott Air Force Base. In a letter to the Illinois Business Journal, he said there are at least 66 Air Force Reservists who live directly in the city of Belleville, and 663 more airmen that live within a 50-mile area.
“These amazing citizen airmen are local leaders who reside, work and stay in the area for the long term with jobs and families. This bill will support strong families who positively impact the Air Force Reserve and the community,” he wrote.
The bill defines a “service member” as any person who, at the time of application, is an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces or any reserve component of the United States Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, or the National Guard of any state, commonwealth, or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia or whose active duty service concluded within the preceding two years before application.
Currently, spouses with nursing and teaching licenses are unable to work in those roles in Illinois without going through the full licensing process, Collins said.
“Their talent and experience would be put on hold. This expedited process would help put more teachers in our schools, more nurses in our hospitals and more income into our local community,” Collins said.
Overall, Illinois has approximately 40,756 active-duty, reserve, and guard service members, and 14,889 spouses residing in Illinois. The bill would help Scott Air Force Base, which has an annual economic impact on the region of an estimated $3.5 billion, as well as Great Lakes Naval Air Station, Rock Island Army Arsenal and the Illinois National Guard.
The 932d Airlift Wing has an annual operating and maintenance budget of approximately $16.5 million. Of this amount, $13.9 million is expended for the civilian payroll, including Air Reserve Dual Status Technicians. Secondary jobs, goods, expenditures and services bring the total economic impact to approximately $50.4 million in Illinois.
“If we have Air Force Reservists considering a transfer to Illinois from other states, this legislation could tip their decision process in our favor and help them decide to come to Illinois because their spouse will have better job opportunities here,” Collins said.
Southwestern Illinois legislators rallied statewide to unanimously pass HB 1652, enabling expedited license reciprocity for active duty military servicemembers, to include members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Guardsmen, Reservists, and military spouses. The legislation was sponsored state Reps. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and state Sens. Christopher Belt, D-Centreville, Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, and Rachelle Crowe, D-Glen Carbon, and others.
The bill impacts approximately 110 professional licenses administered by the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation.
Officials said the enhanced IDFPR process has been viewed nationally as an achievement envied by multiple other states. An IDFPR military liaison will aid professionals to move applications through the process in a more efficient manner. IDFPR will provide an annual report that tracks the status of all military related applications to ensure no one gets lost in the process.
“In today’s two-household income families, it is critical for military members and spouses to be able to expedite the transfer of their professional licenses to gain employment, because it often takes upwards of 24 months for military spouses to find work. Considering many spouses are only at a military base for 2-3 years, difficulty in gaining sustainable employment for spouses has been a significant reason why many military members leave the service early,” said Mike Riley, chairman of the Public Policy Committee of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, a group made up of business and industry leaders in Madison and St. Clair counties.
The new law compliments license reciprocity for teachers, which Illinois passed in 2018. Brandy Meyer, a military spouse and local teacher said, “The nation appreciates and supports the military, but sometimes less visible to the public are their husbands, wives, and children, who endure many unique challenges.
“As an educator, I know from experience what it is like having to get re-certified to teach every time my husband moves to a new state,” said Meyer. “What this law does for me and other military spouses is it allows us to transfer our licenses from other states to Illinois. This law removes a roadblock that can prevent us from working and having our own careers.”
Military spouses often sacrifice their own professional success to accompany their husbands and wives as they move from one assignment to the next, sometimes putting their careers on hold or giving up on their professional aspirations altogether.
“This law recognizes the challenges our military spouses face,” said Col. J. Scot Heathman, Scott Air Force Base installation commander and commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing. “By allowing them to expeditiously transfer their current licenses and certificates to Illinois, this law creates an avenue for our military spouses to seek and apply for employment opportunities immediately upon their reassignment to Scott. It is a win not only for our military spouses but also for the region’s employers who can capitalize on their talents and skills.”
Jay Korte, chairman of the Leadership Council Military Affairs Committee, called the law “a testament to Illinois’ commitment to being a military-friendly state. It shows that Illinois cares about its servicemembers and their families. It demonstrates how much the state values its military installations and understands the importance of the bases’ continued success to Illinois and to the nation.”
The new law will also give the applicants the ability to reapply for permanent licensure while simultaneously being able to work,” Rep. Stuart said.
“Military families already sacrifice so much to serve their country, they should not have the additional obstacle of constantly reapplying for their professional license when they move to Illinois,” Stuart said. “I’ve heard firsthand from families that are affiliated with Scott Air Force base that this was a need in our state to ensure they can easily adapt when moving state to state.”