Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced his plans to make “Georgia the best state in the nation for small business.” This is a worthy goal, but if we are being honest, he has his work cut out for him. Despite all of the talk about limited government, historically, the Georgia General Assembly and state agencies have been known to sometimes enact burdensome regulations on small businesses and individual workers.

One of the most onerous forms of regulation is occupational licensing regimes. As is the case across the country, many prospective workers must first obtain a professional license in order to work. Licensure prerequisites range greatly but often include mandated education, training, the passage of specific exams, and paying the government for the privilege of having a job.

Georgia’s occupational licensing system is particularly taxing. According to an Institute for Justice study, it is the country’s 14th most burdensome. While this adversely impacts perhaps more than a million Georgians, it is especially harmful to military spouses, but that seems poised to change. Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, and Rep. Heath Clark, R-Warner Robins, both recently introduced legislation to help military spouses more easily obtain the government’s permission to work, which is sorely needed.

Nationally, around 16 percent of military spouses are unemployed and 35 to 40 percent are underemployed. The reasons for this are clear; Military members are re-stationed 10 times as often as civilians – around every two to three years. When they move, their spouses often come with them, but approximately 35 to 50 percent of military spouses work in fields that require an occupational license. So, many must first navigate state occupational licensing regimes before they can find a new job because professional licenses are generally state-specific.

This can be a long and expensive process that keeps military spouses out of the workforce. In fact, in a recent poll, nearly a quarter of military spouses responded that occupational licenses were their greatest impediment to employment.

While struggling with licensure-related unemployment and underemployment, spouses still must find ways to make ends meet. After all, military personnel make very little. To add to their difficulty, if they have children, then they almost certainly need two incomes. This could force their spouses, at no fault of their own, to apply for taxpayer-funded assistance so that they are able to provide for their children.

This is a major issue in Georgia. Indeed, roughly 61,000 active military personnel reside in the Peach State, and over 53 percent of them are married – meaning that many thousands of military spouses in Georgia grapple with these issues on a regular basis.

In 2015, the Georgia Legislature tried to fix this problem by passing a law that allowed licensing boards to provide military spouses with an expedited process that would essentially recognize their out-of-state licenses. However, the legislation didn’t require that the boards provide this assistance. In the years since, it seems that some boards have ultimately chosen not to fully extend this privilege to military spouses.

One such example of this is a military spouse who claimed that she was promised an expedited license application review. Nearly half a year later, her application was rejected for what she believed was a frivolous reason. During this time, she and her husband struggled to provide for their multiple children.

Sen. Thompson and Rep. Clark’s proposed legislation would help solve this crisis. If ratified, their legislation would require state licensing boards to provide military spouses expedited licensure by endorsement if they meet a few criteria: They must hold an out-of-state license in good standing that is “substantially similar in qualifications and scope” to Georgia’s licensing requirements; they must have relocated to Georgia due to a military transfer; and they must pass any Georgia-specific exams to demonstrate their knowledge of the state’s unique laws and regulations.

If they meet these standards, then military spouses can more quickly and easily get a license and find a new job. In the end, this will greatly benefit the State of Georgia, military families and the economy.

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