Legislation to make it easier for military spouses to obtain an occupational license when they move to Mississippi will be among the item’s legislators will be able to consider when they return to finish out the session.

Today, about one in five need a license to work, a strong contrast from the 1950s when just five percent of the population needed permission from the government to earn a living. The impact on military families is even more pronounced than the public as a whole. Data from over the past year – before governments shut down the economy because of the coronavirus pandemic – showed military spouses had unemployment rates that ranged from 20 to 25 percent. 

Why do we see this? One of the reasons is the obvious. The average military family moves every two to three years, meaning new town, new schools, new lives, and, if the spouse is working, a new job for him or her. 

But obtaining an occupational license from another state, which includes new classes and testing, doesn’t make finding a new job easy, and it certainly doesn’t make it quick. By the time the paperwork and testing are completed, and you receive a license and then find a new job, you will likely be moving before too long. This process then repeats itself with every move. Eventually it gets to the point that it isn’t worth it. And we see absurdly high unemployment rates for military spouses. 

House Bill 1510, which is authored by Rep. Steve Hopkins, passed the House unanimously in early March and awaits actions in the Senate. It’s been double referred to Veterans and Military Affairs and Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency. 

Under the proposal, occupational boards in Mississippi will be required to recognize occupational licensed obtained from other states for military members and their families, if the applicant holds a current license from another state and is in good standing. The board will have 60 days after the application is filed to issue (or deny) a license. 

If someone has already jumped through the necessary hoops to obtain a license in another state, we should recognize that license in Mississippi.