The House Health and Human Services Committee advanced a bill Thursday that would expedite temporary work licenses to military spouses who hold an out-of-state certification.
The committee advanced the bill (HB 559) unanimously, leaving the measure with one remaining panel stop. Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland is the bill sponsor.
“Their fees are waived and the licenses will be issued as soon as their specific application information has been verified,” Hunschofsky explained.
The proposal comes as lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Navy veteran, pioneer a bipartisan effort to distinguish Florida as the most military friendly state in the nation.
While several measures bolster veteran mental health and the children of active-duty service members, Hunschofsky’s proposal uniquely supports military spouses.
That support, proponents note, is sorely needed. Military spouses have long suffered from a higher unemployment rate than the civilian community — around 22% pre-pandemic.
Winter Springs Republican Rep. David Smith is the co-sponsor. A former Marine pilot, he spoke before the panel alongside Hunschofsky.
“This legislation would help the spouses of active duty and that number is growing,” Smith told members.
Indeed, Florida’s active-duty military population is increasing. The Department of Veterans Affairs projects Florida will have the second-highest veteran population by 2040. Florida is home to more than 65,000 active-duty service members, according to the Governor’s Office. It is also home to more than 1.4 million veterans.
“Anything we can do to alleviate any barriers for our military, veterans and their spouses is definitely what we want to do here in Florida,” said Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis.
Roughly 21 lawmakers are military veterans and six currently serve as Reservists or in the Florida National Guard, according to the Florida Veterans Foundation.
Hunschofsky’s proposal will appear next before the House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee. The bill would take effect July 1 if signed into law.
Tampa Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz is the companion bill sponsor (SB 562).