South Carolina on the verge of removing obstacles to work for military spouses

Jobs & Economy
February 21, 2020

Lawson Mansell

Policy Content Manager

On Thursday, H.3263\S.455 passed through conference committee and now awaits ratification and a signature by the Governor. Once signed into law, the new statue will allow the state to issue a temporary professional or occupational license to spouses of military service members who move to South Carolina with an existing license from another state. This reform will allow military spouses to begin applying for jobs and bring in income as soon as they move to the state without having to go through the complex and costly process to obtain an occupational license.

Palmetto Promise wrote about this piece of legislation, and the importance of removing barriers to work for military families, back in March of last year after it unanimously passed the S.C. House of Representatives.

Sound policy that will impact those who need it most

We caught up with Rep. Micah Caskey, a former Captain in the United States Marine Corps, who served on the conference committee and he had this to say about the importance of this bill:

“[S.455] is one of the things that will generally help South Carolina remain a magnet for the military. It just makes sense. When people are looking to move or retire after their service, this is one less obstacle for those who served our country to have to overcome. We should absolutely take the steps towards making the transition as easy as possible.”

South Carolina is home to over 50,000 active duty and reserve military members, ranking 8th in the country. With 8 military bases, including Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island where 17,000 recruits are trained each year, it’s important that we provide flexibility to those moving into our state to earn a living.

Bill Bethea, Chairman of the South Carolina Military Base Task Force, was present for the conference committee and said that S.455 has been in the making for over three years:

“The bill that came out of conference committee today is hugely impactful. We’ve been working on this for at least three years.

“When military families move to a new city and are accustomed to having multiple salaries, to have to wait a few months before one of them can start working can be a real hardship. This bill will make a significant difference for our military families in South Carolina.”

Military spouses’ unemployment rate is currently at a staggering 16% and over 20% of military spouses say that obtaining occupational licenses were one of the greatest challenges they faced when moving to a new state. With 35% of military spouses working in a field that requires a license and military families moving at a rate 10 times that of everyone else, it is just common sense to allow them the flexibility they need to start earning money as soon as they get to South Carolina.

What’s included in the bill

Not all occupational licenses will be transferable, as both educators and attorneys were removed from the bill, and additional requirements for CRNAs were added as well. Bethea said that they are currently working with the South Carolina Department of Education to allow this bill to apply to teachers as well.

However, for every other profession or occupation that requires a license, as long as the individual’s license is in good standing with their previous state, they will be given a temporary license. Once they receive their temporary license, the process for obtaining a permanent license begins, allowing a very easy transition to obtaining a South Carolina professional or occupational license.

Georgia also considering similar legislation

HB 914, a recently filed bill currently sitting in the hopper in the Georgia House of Representatives, would also allow military spouses to transfer their licenses from another state. Marc Hyden, with R Street Institute in D.C., wrote in support of Georgia’s bill, noting that other states are implementing this model. It is exciting to see South Carolina lead the way in removing barriers to work for military spouses, giving them the flexibility they need to provide for themselves and their families.

By exempting military members and spouses from having to apply for this license when they first arrive, South Carolina is making it even easier for our service members’ spouses to live and work free from cumbersome government regulation.