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Is license reciprocity finally coming to your state?

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Family groceries and legislation that matters

As a company passionate about reporting, Merit knows accurate data tends to simplify complicated issues. For example, thanks to the monthly USDA Retail Milk Prices Report, we can be reasonably sure that if you bought a gallon of milk this year, you paid between $2.49 in Louisville, KY, and a jaw-dropping $5.22 in, of all places, Kansas City, MO. Who knew!

This family-budget-driving statistic can't tell us how milk in the heartland topped five dollars a gallon but makes it clear why workforce development - connecting working parents with good-paying jobs - is essential in 2022.

One promising accelerator for economic recovery is universal or reciprocal occupational and professional licensing. A LexisNexis report states that 3,500 related measures have been introduced in state legislatures since 2017 and, thanks to its critical role during the COVID-19 response, this regulatory reform is gaining bipartisan support. Many governors included some form of reciprocity in 2020 COVID-19 emergency executive orders and statutes. 

The nonpartisan State Council of Governments offers the following broad definition for license reciprocity:

Universal license recognition laws do not provide for "true reciprocity" (instantaneous recognition of another state's license) and may still require an application process and discretion by the licensing board. They have the intended effect of lowering the threshold for license portability in a state and reducing time to licensure.

Merit President of Government Affairs Trevor Cornwell testified for universal licensing before the Nebraska Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee in October 2021. A summary of his testimony Can Universal Digital Licenses Help Your State Thrive? was included in The Rebuild newsletter in December 2021. 

The COVID-19 response displaced millions of professionals and closed many businesses. Licensed professionals and those seeking to hire them experienced first-hand the many benefits of universal licenses that:

  • Allow licensees to find rapid employment
  • Reduce the time it takes employers to fill staffing vacancies
  • Prevent local business attrition due to labor shortages
  • Provide services for communities with skilled-personnel shortages

Was 2021 a good year for universal licensing?

20 state legislatures advanced versions of license reciprocity in 2021, hoping to extend the benefits they felt from a lower regulatory burden. These included:

Mississippi

South Dakota

North Carolina

Nebraska

Military families deserve portable licenses 

Representing Merit, a company where 10% of full-time employees are Veterans, Cornwell stressed the benefits of license reform for the families of service members - past and present.

Licensing silos significantly impact our military and veteran families. Often when they moved to a new state, military spouses had to apply for new licenses. Merit's research study reported 47.9% of 500 military veterans polled had to be re-credentialed at least once to work in the state they moved to.² For families already living on tight budgets, the loss of income from this delay is an unnecessary hardship we can quickly remedy.

It was especially heartening to see, in 2021, that military-focused legislation was successful in Kansas, where the legislature and Governor Kelly passed and signed the Military Spouse Occupational License Reciprocity.

Reciprocity is off to a great start in 2022

Pro-reciprocity legislators have already introduced legislation in Ohio, Nebraska, and others. A military spouse occupational licensing reform bill passed the Kentucky House in January and is heading to the Senate for consideration.

Many advocates are not yet 100% satisfied, even where incremental reform has passed, and feel that burdensome regulation still restricts economic recovery for individuals and communities. 

The nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures database lets you track current licensure laws introduced in your state

Though slow, progress is steady and has resulted, for states that enacted reciprocal license recognition, with improvement where it matters most, in the daily lives of millions of hardworking bread (and milk!) winners and their families.

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