Governor signs bill expediting Kansas occupational licenses for military spouses

Champions of a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Laura Kelly said the measure will aid the state’s "best and brightest," specifically those with military ties, in acquiring occupational licenses and ensure more people move to Kansas. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers and military officials alike praised a bill signed into law Wednesday that expedites the process to grant an occupational license to service members and spouses for encouraging more folks to move to the state.

House Bill 2066 would shorten the period in which regulatory agencies must issue occupational licenses to those seeking to establish residency in Kansas who have similar licenses from out of state. The bill would require these licensing bodies to issue the new credentials to military service members or a spouse within 15 days of when the application is submitted.

Current law requires these licenses to be issued to military and spouses within 60 days. The bill also expands the process to non-military applicants for credentials to be issued within 45 days.

In signing the law, Gov. Laura Kelly recalled her mother’s difficulties as a military spouse maintaining employment because of the frequency their family moved. This measure would ensure more military families can pursue their desired careers, she said.

“There’s more of an opportunity to actually practice a profession if you have one, and I’m glad that Kansas has now opened the door for that to happen for those military members and their spouses,” Kelly said. “Those are some of our best and brightest, our greatest resources, and we want you and all of your family to stay here and keep Kansas as your permanent home.”

The effort initiated by Rep. Chris Croft, R-Overland Park, would allow applicants to receive a Kansas occupational license if they hold a current license from another state with a similar scope of practice, have worked at least a year in the occupation, have no disqualifying criminal record and are in good financial standing with the original licensing body. A probationary license may be issued on a per-case basis.

A probationary license would be issued for six months before it would become permanent.

The final version of the bill passed the Senate 35-4 and subsequently was approved by the House 105 to 17.

Gen. David Weishaar, commander of the Kansas National Guard, said studies indicating the number of jobs requiring government licensing have increased from about one in every 20 to one in four. Military spouses move on average 10 times more frequently than their civilian counterparts, and 35% work in a field that requires credentials, he said.

“As the quality of life increases, Kansas will become more appealing as a duty location,” Weishaar said. “It will make Kansas more appealing for residency. Kansas will be able to keep the talented, diverse, resilient and educated men and women who come to our state and hopefully join our workforce.”

Some who testified against the measure worried other states’ standards may not hold up well against licensing rules and regulations in Kansas. They said a ”similar scope of practice” does not ensure that medical professionals or architects, for example, coming to the state are truly qualified.

To meet the concerns for those two fields, both the state Board of Healing Arts and the Board of Technical Professions may deny licensing if the applicant’s qualifications are not “substantially equivalent” to their standards.

Croft, a veteran himself, said the roadblocks this bill addresses are a burden not only to military families but to low-income Kansans.

“Last year, the president of the Board of Regents proudly proclaimed in my office that Kansas is recognized by the Department of Defense as the ‘best’ at recognizing what military professionals possess in knowledge, skills and experiences,” Croft said in written testimony to a panel of legislators. “We need to do the same for all professionals that want to move to Kansas, become Kansas residents and work.”