SANTA FE -- Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday signed into law an initiative that will make it easier for military families and recent veterans to go to work when they move to New Mexico.
Military commanders from Kirtland Air Force Base, Cannon Air Force Base, Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range; military spouses and children; lawmakers, and military advocates surrounded the governor during the ceremony.
House Bill 30, approved unanimously by the Legislature, fast-tracks the transfer of professional and occupational licenses for service members, their families and recent veterans who relocate here, in addition to waiving licensing fees for the first three years.
"Most military families move every two to three years, and some even more frequently. That makes it harder for a military spouse to build a career --or even find a job," Gov. Lujan Grisham said. "I am committed to removing barriers for these dedicated servicemembers, veterans and their families wherever and whenever I can."
Military spouses face a 24 percent unemployment rate, even though 89 percent have some college credits, 30 percent have four-year bachelor's degrees and 15 percent have graduate degrees, according to a 2017 survey by the U.S. Department of Defense.
More than a third of military spouses work in occupations that require licenses, and the same survey found that after a move, more than half of them couldn't get a new license for four months or longer.
House Bill 30 gives state agencies from 30 to 60 days to issue a license to a military family member or recent veteran who can show he or she has a license that is current and in good standing from another jurisdiction and otherwise meets minimal licensing requirements.
The legislation will bring an influx of qualified professionals into the New Mexico workforce in critical areas, such as education and nursing.
"To military families and veterans: New Mexico wants you and needs you in our classrooms and clinics -- in our workforce," the governor said.
The governor praised the sponsors -- Reps. Eliseo Lee Alcon, Harry Garcia and Debra Sariñana and Sen. Candace Gould -- for their leadership and the Legislature for supporting the measure unanimously.
House Bill 30 covers a wide range of occupations and professions that require specific training or credentials, including teachers, health care professionals, engineers, surveyors, mental health counselors, social workers, interior designers, real estate appraisers, barbers and tattoo artists.
For the past two years, reciprocity of professional licenses has been a central issue for the Department of Defense in improving the quality of life for military families. The Air Force recently included an assessment of states' policies for accepting professional, career licenses as part of its strategic basing process.
"Expediting and waiving fees for licensures of spouses, dependents and veterans in New Mexico demonstrates the state's commitment to service members," said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett. "The Department of the Air Force applauds New Mexico for meeting the unique needs of military families."
"With this signing, New Mexico has provided accompanying spouses who have moved here, or will move here, a significantly greater opportunity to continue their profession and provide for their family. When our Airmen and their families are properly supported, we are able to execute the mission even better and this signing supports just that," said Col. Robert Masaitis, 27th Special Operations Wing commander in Clovis.
"Taking action to improve opportunities for us to work in our communities goes a long way toward creating installations of choice for our military families," said Col. David Miller, 377 Air Base Wing Commander in Albuquerque. "Having military installations in New Mexico communities cannot be measured only in terms of economic impact -- though our collective impact on employment and the economies here is great. Having us here means added capacity and expertise from the Little League field to the classroom to the emergency room. This is the opening of another chapter in our partnership with our neighbors."