CHICAGO (June 28, 2012) -- In grand fashion, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois National Guard hosted First Lady Michelle Obama at an historic bill-signing at the Calumet armory in Chicago, June 26.

The governor, flanked by the first lady, Acting Adjutant General of Illinois Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti, bill sponsors Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton, state Rep. Bob Pritchard, and state Sen. Martin Sandoval, -- signed into law the "Military Family Licensing Act."

The bill, which is officially named Senate Bill 275, provides for temporary expedited professional and educational licenses for active duty members of the military and their spouses after the families relocate to Illinois for military service. More than 300 service members and their families crowded into the armory in the South Loop to witness the historic event. Illinois will become the 23rd state to adopt pro-military spouse license portability legislation when the law takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.

"Our military families make great sacrifices every day, and they shouldn't have to put their career on hold while their loved ones are serving their country overseas," Gov. Quinn said. "This new law will strengthen Illinois and allow these dedicated professionals to waste no time in finding work and making a difference as they settle into their new home."

As part of her Joining Forces initiative to honor, recognize and support military families, the first lady has advocated for the 100,000 military spouses who serve in professions that require state licenses or certification. For many, this means having to bear high financial burdens to transfer their credentials from state to state as they serve.

"Because of Governor Quinn's efforts, more military spouses will be able to advance in their careers. More businesses, hospitals and schools will get the talented, experienced workers they rely on. And more families will have the income they need and the financial security they deserve," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Above all, military families will know that America has their back. We are working hard every day to serve them as well as they have served this country."

In February, the first lady and Jill Biden asked the country's governors to improve job portability for military spouses in their states by relieving some of the financial burdens they face. At the time the first lady and Dr. Biden addressed the governors, only 11 states had such legislation. With the addition of the law in Illinois, that number has grown to 23, and an additional seven states have similar pending legislation.

"This is a monumental day for service members and their spouses here in Illinois," said Maj. Gen. Dennis Celletti of Springfield, the acting adjutant general of Illinois. "The legislation signed today will no doubt ease the burden associated with professional license transfer and further strengthen communities around the state. Illinois has once again set the standard for excellence in caring for its heroes."

The state agencies that issue occupational licenses, including the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, or IDFPR, and the State Board of Education, will be able to grant temporary licenses to military members and spouses who hold credentials in other states in more than 50 professions, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, plumbers, paramedics, social workers, dieticians, and therapists.

"This new law is powerful for the more than 16,000 military families who call Illinois home," said Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Borggren. "Military spouses make tremendous sacrifices to follow their loved ones from duty station to duty station -- and temporary, expedited licensure is an important way our state can support them through those sacrifices."

In addition to temporary six-month licenses, the act allows the IDFPR to consider all relevant experience and training that a Servicemember has gained through military service towards meeting certain permanent state licensing requirements.

Illinois Army National Guard member Staff Sgt. Jamie Witt of Urbana, added to the sentiment felt by the bill's many supporters at the bill-signing.

"As a civilian nurse, I can attest to the difficulties one may encounter when acquiring the proper state licensure for his or her profession. I am honored to be here today to witness the signing of this legislation," said Witt. "Our service members and their families now have one less obstacle to overcome during their transition to Illinois. This further illustrates that Illinois truly values its service members and their families. I am honored and proud to call Illinois home," said Witt.