HB 1263, sponsored by Rep. Becky Currie, would recognize occupational licenses issued by another state. A companion bill (SB 2187), sponsored by Senator Kevin Blackwell, would do the same. Each bill must pass its respective chamber by February 11, 2021.

The two bills advance a workforce freedom agenda long advanced by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. Last year, we worked with lawmakers to pass legislation that helps military families move to Mississippi and take advantage of their licensing credentials to get a good job. We are looking to expand upon this achievement by opening up this reform to more families.

MCPP recently had an opportunity to sit down with Rep. Currie and talk to her about this important legislation.

1. Tell our readers about HB 1263 and what it would do.

Last year, we made it easier for military families who move to Mississippi to obtain a Mississippi license to work. This bill expands upon that reform. Many skilled jobs require a license to work. By this, I mean a license to teach or a license to be a dietician or a license to practice as a nurse. We have teacher shortages in many areas. This bill will help address that. We have serious health care access problems in Mississippi. This bill will help address that too. What the bill does is make it easier for new residents to use the training they already have to help Mississippians get a better education, get better health care, and get access to more services.

2. What inspired you to push this bill forward?

Rep. Currie: Mississippi is the best kept secret in the South. I want to see Mississippi grow. One way we can do this is to allow people who move here, who have a license to work in another state, to easily transfer that license to Mississippi. Other states, like Arizona, Missouri and Utah, are making it easier for new residents to have their hard-earn credentials honored by their licensing boards. Why make someone jump through the same hoop twice? If we want to grow, we need to open the door to skilled labor. That is what my bill does.

3. With the economy still reeling from 2020, how do you think this bill could help contribute to greater prosperity for Mississippi?

Rep. Currie: COVID is obviously encouraging people to consider moving out of certain areas that might not be as good a place as Mississippi to raise a family or start a business. As more states make it easier for new residents to work, we have to keep up. Arizona passed this reform in 2019. Today, they are one of the fastest growing states in the country. When new residents move here, that helps everyone. It increases tax revenue and increases the money that goes to schools and roads. It creates new energy and helps us learn about ideas that are catching on in other states. It also, ultimately, increases property values and opportunities for those of us who are already here.

4. What is the next step for the bill?

Rep. Currie: HB 1263 is now ready to go to the House floor for a vote by the full assembly. It has to pass out of the House before February 11. After that, it crosses over to the Senate, for consideration in a Senate committee. This is a team effort. I want to thank my cosponsor, Jansen Owen, for his help. I also want to thank the Workforce Development Chairman Donnie Bell and Speaker Philip Gunn. I also appreciate those in the Senate who are working hard on this same reform.

5. How can people help?

Rep. Currie: This bill is a win-win for the people of Mississippi and for new residents. We all benefit when skilled workers move here. These people are going to get good jobs and help grow our state. They are going to stay off welfare and pay taxes and discover that Mississippi is a great place to raise a family and retire surrounded by your grandkids. That’s the Mississippi that I love. People can help by talking to their state lawmaker and telling him/her you support this bill. Also, even if you disagree with them, say a prayer for your local and state lawmakers. As people like to say these days, we’re all in this together. We are all working hard to write the next chapter in the Mississippi Success Story.