Opinion

Military spouses will benefit from this new Illinois law

The Illinois legislature recently passed House Bill 1652, a bill designed to help military members and their spouses with the licensing process. House Bill 1652 provides for expedited licensure reciprocity for service members and military spouses and is designed to make it easier for members and their spouses to get to work in Illinois. With the proper credentials, military members and their spouses coming to Illinois from out of state can quickly become licensed in Illinois.

The bill defines a “service member” as any person who, at the time of application under this Section, is an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces or any reserve component of the United States Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, or the National Guard of any state, commonwealth, or territory of the United States or the District of Columbia or whose active duty service concluded within the preceding two years before application.

If this legislation helps just one military spouse continue their career path, then it will be a success. Military spouses are resilient, great people with strong leadership skills and work ethic. Of note locally, there are at least 66 Air Force Reservists who live directly in the city of Belleville, and 663 more Airmen that live within a 50 mile area. These amazing citizen airmen are local leaders who reside, work, and stay in the area for the long term with jobs and families. This bill will support strong families who positively impact the Air Force Reserve and the community.

Currently, spouses with nursing and teaching licenses are unable to work in those roles in Illinois without going through the full licensing process. Their talent and experience would be put on hold. This expedited process would help put more teachers in our schools, more nurses in our hospitals and more income into our local community.

Overall, Illinois has approximately 40,756 active-duty, reserve, and guard service members, and 14,889 spouses residing in Illinois. This bill not only impacts Scott Air Force Base, one of the largest economic engines in Southwestern Illinois, with a $3.5 billion impact to the region, but also Great Lakes Naval Air Station, Rock Island Army Arsenal, and the Illinois National Guard The 932nd Airlift Wing has an annual operating and maintenance budget of approximately $16.5 million. Of this amount, $13.9 million is expended for the civilian payroll, including Air Reserve Dual Status Technicians. Secondary jobs, goods, expenditures, and services bring the total economic impact to approximately $50.4 million in Illinois.

If we have Air Force Reservists considering a transfer to Illinois from other states, this legislation could tip their decision process in our favor, and help them decide to come to Illinois because their spouse will have better job opportunities here. The Illinois governor signed the bill (now public act 101-0240) on Aug. 9, and the law will take effect in January 2020, so that’s good news for military spouses.

Col. Glenn Collins is the commander of the 932nd Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve Command unit located at Scott Air Force Base. He is responsible for training and equipping more than 1,100 reservists with four C-40C distinguished visitor aircraft. While a Citizen Airman, Col. Collins maintained a private law practice with an emphasis in aviation litigation. He additionally served as the aviation analyst for a major television network in Chicago and is on the board of directors for several philanthropic, civic and business organizations.

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