State Policy Network
The Buckeye Institute helps Ohio enact occupational licensing reciprocity for military spouses

Thanks to The Buckeye Institute’s tireless efforts, Ohio now recognizes out-of-state occupational licenses for the spouses of active-duty military men and women. On January 27, 2020, the Ohio governor signed Senate Bill 7, legislation that allows military spouses who move to Ohio to continue working in their profession of choice—without being forced to comply with layers of bureaucratic red tape.

Ohio, like most states, frequently does not recognize occupational licenses that have been issued in other states, and even when it does, it often requires workers to jump through bureaucratic hoops to practice their chosen profession in the Buckeye State. When workers with these licenses move to Ohio, the state requires them to apply for new licenses and pay expensive fees just to keep practicing the profession they were safely practicing in another state. Some of Ohio’s regulations even impose additional educational requirements that could take up to two years to complete. These regulations are detrimental to all Americans, especially military families, who are frequently transferred from state to state. Now, under the Buckeye-inspired Senate Bill 7, Ohio’s military families will no longer be subject to these restrictive and unnecessary regulations.

The Buckeye Institute isn’t resting on its success with this reform, though. While it is celebrating this significant win for Ohio’s military families, Buckeye is determinedly leading the charge to adopt universal occupational license reciprocity in Ohio, which would make it easier for people with licenses in other states to live out their dreams in Ohio and would fuel the economic growth the state desperately needs.

Buckeye breaks down employment barriers for military families

Buckeye kickstarted its campaign to pass common-sense licensing reform with the release of its landmark study, “Increasing Job Opportunities for Military Families.” The study highlighted the difficulties licensing regulations place on military families in particular. Buckeye’s experts urged Ohio to change its occupational licensing system and offered practical recommendations for reform. Lawmakers took notice; the legislation signed by the governor was based on The Buckeye Institute’s recommendations to remove unnecessary barriers and burdens on military families outlined in this study.

Brianna McKinnon (right).
Photo Credit: The Buckeye Institute

Through op-eds, testimonies, and a person-by-person legislative outreach campaign, Buckeye helped policymakers and the public see how the state’s broken licensing system was hurting military families. Buckeye shared powerful stories of real people who were being affected, including the story of Brianna McKinnon, a special education teacher and military spouse stationed in Ohio. Brianna wrote an op-ed in The Columbus Dispatch, detailing her plight when Ohio refused to recognize her Washington state license to teach special needs children. Brianna’s work in partnership with Buckeye was so successful that it was praised by the US Secretary of Defense, who publicly thanked her for championing the cause and said he will use her “efforts as an example to encourage other states to adopt similar legislation.”

Buckeye also shared the difficulties of Melonia Lillie, a registered nurse and military spouse who was forced to pay expensive licensing fees to continue her career in Ohio.

Melonia praised Buckeye for its leadership on the issue saying, “Since 2008, I have moved four times as a military spouse, and each time I had to pay another license fee on top of fees for background checks and fingerprinting. It is such a relief that Ohio recognizes the challenges military spouses face and took The Buckeye Institute’s recommendations to remove an unnecessary bureaucratic rule that made it harder and more expensive for military spouses like me to get back to work.”

Buckeye’s three-year effort culminated in the passage of Senate Bill 7. Robert Alt, Buckeye’s president and CEO, attended the governor’s signing ceremony along with other lawmakers and military families.

Photo Credit: The Buckeye Institute
Buckeye’s president and CEO Robert Alt joined the Ohio Governor, legislative leaders, and military families on stage at the bill signing.
Photo Credit: The Buckeye Institute

In talking of the policy’s importance to Ohio and its military families, Alt said, “The families of those who are serving our country should not be deprived of the right to earn a living by needless regulation. The Buckeye Institute is proud to have spearheaded this reform in Ohio and looks forward to working with other states and the federal government to streamline licensing for military spouses across the country.”

Network collaboration on occupational licensing reform sparks at SPN’s Annual Meeting

Like so many other meaningful policy reforms, this occupational licensing solution is one with power to spread beyond Ohio. The Buckeye Institute is a key contributor to occupational licensing reform not only in their home state, but across the country, as well. Starting at SPN’s Annual Meeting in 2016, The Buckeye Institute, along with Network leaders in a dozen other states, strategized on potential occupational licensing reforms that could empower professionals and families. Out of this was born a Jobs and Opportunity Working Group that, over the last three years, has shared best practices, messaging, and successful reform strategies to improve job opportunities for all Americans.

Congratulations to The Buckeye Institute for its success in removing barriers to work for Ohio’s military families!

Additional Reading

Ohio Governor Signs Buckeye Institute-Championed Policy to Help Military Spouses Work in Ohio
The Buckeye Institute Press Release

Universal Occupational Licensing Reciprocity Can Fix Ohio’s Broken System
The Buckeye Institute Policy Brief

Zero Barriers: Reducing Ohio’s Occupational Licensing Burden
The Buckeye Institute’s handout outlining why Ohio needs universal occupational licensing reciprocity

The Buckeye Institute Calls on Ohio Policymakers to Adopt Full Occupational Licensing Reciprocity
The Buckeye Institute Press Release

Fix occupational licensing to restore Ohio’s economy
The Buckeye Institute Letter to the Editor in The Columbus Dispatch

Reducing Ohio’s Licensing Burden
The Buckeye Institute handout on how occupational licensing is harming Ohio’s workers

Buckeye Institute-Inspired Policy Goes to Governor DeWine’s Desk for Signature
The Buckeye Institute Press Release

Opening Doors: Occupational Licensing Reform in Ohio after Senate Bill 255
The Buckeye Institute Policy Brief

Buckeye Institute-Championed Policy Would Increase Job Opportunities for Military Families
The Buckeye Institute testifies before Ohio House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee

Increasing Job Opportunities for Military Families
The Buckeye Institute Policy Brief that formed the basis for Senate Bill 7

Categories: Policy Solutions
Organization: State Policy Network