Military spouse stories bring about licensing changes in South Dakota

Military spouse stories bring about licensing changes in South Dakota


Three years ago, I had the good fortune to meet fellow military spouse Lauren Kimball during a trivia night in Newport, Rhode Island. We connected over frustrations with occupational licensing barriers for military families and shared our common struggles as career-minded military spouses. Most importantly, we dominated trivia and took home the prize that night!

We went our separate ways after our husbands’ tours ended in Rhode Island - several moves later, I’m now in California and Lauren is in South Dakota (insert joke here about Navy vs. Air Force duty stations!). But in typical military spouse fashion, we remained in touch on Facebook - an invaluable tool keeping military families connected as we relocate around the globe.

Last year, Lauren and I reconnected by phone. Lauren was rallying local military spouses and working with military and business leaders to change the rules for military spouse occupational licensing reciprocity in South Dakota. We talked about the power of storytelling and the importance of military spouse advocacy on these issues. I shared my insights on the legislative process and cheered on her efforts.

This month, I’m happy to report that Lauren and the other advocates in South Dakota succeeded in their goal of instituting occupational licensing reform for military spouses in the state. On March 21, 2019, Governor Kristi Noem signed HB 1111 into law. The new law requires licensing bodies to issue a license to a qualified military spouse within 30 days of receiving a completed application.

This victory in South Dakota is a powerful demonstration of how telling our stories as military spouses can bring about meaningful change. Although the states are aware of the need for occupational licensing reform, it is the stories of the impacted military families that propel rulemakers into action. Congratulations to Lauren and other military spouses who stepped forward to share their own stories of disrupted careers while serving alongside their servicemembers. Your hard work will benefit the local community and military families in South Dakota for years to come!


Read about the efforts of Lauren and others to make HB 1111 a reality:

Military spouses, local organizations speak up for licensing bill

The House Bill that aims to ease the process for military members and their spouses to get professional licenses in-state, has been making its way through the legislature unopposed.

Men and women in and around Rapid City are speaking up for HB 1111 in order to pave the way for future military spouses to readily continue employment in South Dakota.

“There’s a workforce shortage in most fields in South Dakota, Rapid City and the Black Hills,” said Scott Landguth, executive director of the Ellsworth Development Authority. “Having that pool of talent come in and having that ability to get them to work quickly with little delay is very important.”

In the summer of 2018, Ellsworth Air Force Base conducted a survey of military spouses to find the overall impact of the licensing issue.

“Over 70 percent of our spouses said ‘I’m in a profession that requires a military license’,” said Lauren Kimball, Ellsworth AFB spouse. “When I look at the squadron in which my husband is affiliated in, over half the spouses, the issue affects them.”

Since the survey, the issue has been spoken out about by other spouses and local organizations affected by the issue.

“I’ve been licensed in Texas, Arizona, Utah, and South Dakota,” said Jessica Bacon, local dental hygienist and military spouse. “It’s monotony, going through the same steps over and over again getting licensed.”

For Bacon, it took a full year to get a permanent license due to insufficient wording on certain paperwork and limitations with quarterly board meetings.

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