Red Tape Hurts Military Families

February 8, 2018 1:45PM

If you’ve followed the Beacon Center’s work for long, you know by now that Tennessee has one of the worst occupational licensing burdens in the country. Though Beacon has managed to overturn two of these licenses in the past year, the state still has 110 on the books and new licenses are being proposed every legislative session.

These occupational licenses frequently govern fields that have no public health or safety component, such as hair braiding, and even worse, they often require hundreds of hours of schooling and thousands of dollars in tuition costs and fees. These laws block about 15,000 people a year from accessing a good job in our state, and for military spouses, these laws are even more burdensome.

Military spouses frequently have to move from state to state as their partner receives different assignments and stations. Because occupational licensing laws vary wildly from one state to another, this means that military spouses have to become re-licensed time and again, or even become licensed in one state for a job they worked in for years license-free in another. In fact, military families are 10 times more likely to move across state lines than their non-military counterparts, and they are 35% more likely to be in a field that requires a license. Ultimately, this means our military families often make less money due to a spouse not being able to work their way up in a field or work full time.

Kristina Perigo is a Tennessee native living in Clarksville. Her partner Nick is a member of the United States Army, and together they are working to raise three children. A few years ago, Kristina entered school to become a real estate agent. She was excited about the potential of her new career and eager to get started knowing this would mean more financial flexibility for their family along with the opportunity to work at a job she would really enjoy.

But while Kristina was going through the licensing process, the family realized they would have to move in the near future. Moving to another state meant that Kristina would have to begin the process of becoming licensed all over again. And not only that, she would also have to go back through school all over again, which requires hundreds of hours and costly tuition because she had not worked in the field for over two years. Due to this, she made the decision to quit trying to become a licensed real estate agent. Now, Kristina works a part-time job and has given up on trying to become licensed.

Kristina’s story is just one of many for members of the military and their families. Tennessee should take into consideration the harm our occupational licensing laws cause our military and seek to do better by them. Limiting the number of fields we license, and making sure that the burden to become licensed is not too high is a great place for us to start.