Military spouses and veterans could find it easier to get jobs in North Carolina.

The House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 1053 on Thursday, June 4, and it heads to the House’s Homeland Security, Military, and Veterans Affairs committee. 

The bill reduces regulatory barriers and fast-track the occupational licensure process for military applicants, veterans, and military spouses. The bill aims to increase transparency by requiring licensure boards to publish licensure information and report data on military members and their spouses. It should help veterans, active-duty military, and spouses get back in the labor force as COVID-19 restrictions ease. 

North Carolina would also join an interstate licensure compact for audiology and speech pathology. This would allow veterans with certain out-of-state licenses to practice in North Carolina without undergoing the process to get a state license. It also expands access to telemedicine within participating states. 

The interstate compact currently includes West Virginia, Utah, Wyoming, and Oklahoma. Four other states have introduced legislation to join the compact.

Lawmakers argued current occupational licensing laws create barriers that prevent veterans from reintegrating into the civilian workforce and block military spouses from building successful careers. 

“Here in North Carolina we’re a military-friendly state,” said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union. “Military veterans and their spouses face unique challenges in obtaining occupational licensure. This bill is intended to ease those burdens.”

North Carolina has the nation’s eighth-largest veteran population at more than 683,000 and the fourth-largest active duty military presence, with 778,000 members. The veteran unemployment rate rose to 11.8% in April 2020 across the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Military families move a lot,” said Jon Sanders, John Locke Foundation director of regulatory studies. “If their training doesn’t correspond exactly to the state licensing requirements, they could be turned down. But they could also be eminently qualified under any reasonable view.”

Lawmakers considered widening the state’s participation in interstate licensure compacts. 

“These young men and women are incredibly well-trained and qualified,” said Rep. William Richardson, D-Cumberland. “Is it impractical to do this with most all other professions, or do we have to do this one at a time?”

The N.C. Board of Nursing supports the bill’s push for a “smooth licensure process” for military and military spouses, said Catherine Moore, the board’s legislative liaison. 

“North Carolina’s occupational licensing regulations don’t just block and frustrate veterans and military spouses,” Sanders said. “They affect workers and would-be workers from a multitude of backgrounds. Bringing more occupational freedom to North Carolina would be crucial to helping people here get back to work in the coming months.”