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New bill streamlines licensure for military spouses

Republicans and Democrats join forces for the Armed Forces

Rep. Christine Kilduff (D) sponsored House Bill 1978, the latest in an ongoing effort to expedite interstate licensure for military spouses. Photo courtesy

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Imagine you're the spouse of an active-duty servicemember and your family just transferred to a new state. (Some of our readers don't have to imagine. Welcome to Washington!) Moving is one of the most stressful and exhausting experiences in life, but it's par for the course in military life. Fortunately, if you're a licensed working professional, at least finding work in Washington won't be an issue - as soon as you're properly licensed. (Cue ominous thunderclap.)

If you've weathered an interstate transfer before, you know that getting your out-of-state license transferred to a new state can be a Herculean hurdle. And while Uncle Sam means well in making sure that the nurses at the hospital are actually nurses and not just random people in scrubs, considering how often military spouses move across state lines, wouldn't it be nice if someone introduced some legislation to streamline the licensure process for them?

Well, someone did.

The Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs (JCVMA) was created in 2005 in order to provide an unbiased, nonpartisan entity to address issues relating to veterans and military personnel. The committee - consisting of 16 members from the House and Senate - meet during the legislative interim to brainstorm these issues and make recommendations to the House for consideration during legislative sessions.

In 2011, the Washington State Legislature directed the state Department of Licensing And Health Department to "establish procedures for expediting licensing, certification, or registration in certain business and health-related professions for spouses of military members subject to an interstate transfer." And while it didn't mean less hoops to jump through to get licensed, it made licensed professionals from out-of-state eligible for a temporary license to work in Washington while completing any additional state-specific requirements for their license, mitigating potential unemployment and lost wages for qualified workers.

This year, with both Democrat and Republican representatives serving as her cosponsors, Rep. Christine Kilduff (D) sponsored House Bill 1978. Together with its companion bill - Senate Bill 5359 - HB 1978 requires Washington's DOL and Health Department to submit biennial reports to the Legislature, updating them on the progress the departments have made implementing the expedited licensing procedures for out-of-state military spouses. Both departments are also required to appear before the JCVMA each year to provide a progress report.

While HB 1978 is still very much in its preliminary stages, there's reason to be optimistic. Following the initial presentation Feb. 6, The House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs voted unanimously in favor of HB 1978 Feb. 16. It's currently in committee for review, after which it will be presented to the House for an official vote.

"For our military families, moving is a way of life." Kilduff said in a press release shortly after the bill's initial approval. "But that shouldn't be an impediment to a career for spouses of our military servicemembers."

Senate Bill 5359 was also approved following its initial presentation and is currently in committee for review, with a tentative presentation date before the Senate already on the calendar.

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