June 11, 2020
By Heather Curry

Today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law a Goldwater Institute-inspired bill to help put military families back to work faster when they relocate into the Pelican State. This reform was championed by Representative Charles Owen and the Goldwater Institute worked closely with local allies to help accomplish this reform. 

Based on Goldwater Institute model legislation, Louisiana’s Breaking Down Barriers to Work for Military Families Act allows military members and spouses who are asked to relocate into the state to more easily transfer an out-of-state occupational license. Rather than ask America’s service members to duplicate training or testing in order to continue to work, HB 613 allows boards to recognize the time and training applicants have already invested in their careers. It offers pathways to recognition through work experience and private certification and allows service members to use their experience and training in the military to qualify for a Louisiana state license. Further, it allows for the provision of a temporary license in the event that an applicant is required to complete additional training or testing. 

HB 613 passed the Louisiana House of Representatives with unanimous support. Joining Representative Owen in co-authoring House Bill 613 were 64 House members, including Chairman of the Veteran and Military Affairs Committee, Representative Lieutenant Colonel (US Army-ret) Kenny Cox of Mansfield.

Commenting on the bill, Rep. Charles Owen said, “Our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are in most cases accompanied to their duty assignments in Louisiana by trained, licensed and highly skilled spouses. House Bill 613 simply makes it easier for Louisiana licensing boards to accept the training and skills of those folks and get them in the work force faster. The law will send a signal to the nation that Louisiana is open for business and also send a heartfelt message to the Department of Defense that Louisiana is serious about quality of life AND that we welcome spouses and family members to the State’s work force.”

Reneé Amar, Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs at the Pelican Institute, Louisiana’s leading free-market think tank, praised the law, saying, “For too long, our state government has placed unnecessary barriers on those who simply want access to jobs and opportunity in order to support their families. The Pelican Institute applauds Representative Owen for lifting this needless burden from our military families, so we can Get Louisiana Working.”

Louisiana’s military recognition bill is an essential step toward achieving universal recognition for other skilled professionals entering the state, and the state in good company in advancing this reform this session. In addition to Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana also passed versions of universal recognition to benefit military families, recognizing, as HB 613 does, that military families are often particularly vulnerable to onerous regulation as they are often required to relocate, and therefore re-license, every two to three years.  

Further, over 20 states introduced broader legislation to extend the benefits of  universal recognition legislation to all skilled professionals. In 2019, Arizona became the first state in the nation to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses. Arizona’s universal recognition law may be less than a year old, but early data shows that it is already having a tremendous effect. Since universal recognition went into effect in September of 2019, over 1,100 individuals have applied for and been granted an Arizona license to work in fields ranging from cosmetology to engineering.

In addition to Arizona, PennsylvaniaUtah, and Idaho have passed their own recognition laws. Additionally, House Bill 2046, Missouri’s universal recognition law, awaits the signature of Governor Mike Parson. Once signed, it will be the broadest universal recognition law in the country. 

At a time when so many Americans are out of work, policymakers should act swiftly to remove the unnecessary hurdles that frequently stand between workers and their right to earn a living. The Goldwater Institute deeply appreciates the good work of Louisiana’s legislature in advancing this important reform and looks forward to engaging with local allies and policymakers as the Pelican State continues to break down barriers to work for all Americans.  

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.

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