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Bill approved to help military spouses, veterans work in North Carolina

Military spouses learn the functions of non-lethal weapons during Jane Wayne Day on Kin Blue Beach in Okinawa, Japan, November 18, 2016.

ANDREW NEUMANN/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By PAUL WOOLVERTON | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.(Tribune News Service) | Published: March 16, 2017

RALEIGH — For the second day in a row, the North Carolina Senate passed legislation aimed at dissuading the U.S. military from downsizing or closing its bases in the state.

Senators voted 49-0 Wednesday for a bill that would require agencies that issue occupational licenses to issue temporary licenses to military-trained applicants or military spouses. They could get these licenses provided they have received training or licensure elsewhere that meets North Carolina's standards, and they have no pending complaints or revocation that would disqualify them here.

For example, teachers and people who work in the insurance industry must be licensed.

"Senate Bill 8 is intended to do one thing: Make it easier for military families to relocate in North Carolina," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Andy Wells of Hickory.

"And there's many reasons we should do that. But a big one is, we're in a competitive environment when it comes to bases, and we want to be sure our bases stay in this state."

Wells was referring to the military's periodic review and re-allocation of its bases and other assets. Some bases are closed or downsized during these reviews. By making it easier for military spouses and veterans to work in North Carolina, Wells' bill could help make the state more attractive to the military during its next round of adjustments.

In the last round, Pope Air Force Base at Fort Bragg was converted into an Army airfield. Army command operations in Georgia were moved to Fort Bragg, bringing several thousand people to the Fayetteville-Fort Bragg area.

Existing law permits state regulators to issue temporary practice permits to military spouses and those who have military training. But the regulators aren't required to issue these permits. Wells' bill makes it mandatory that they issue them.

The temporary permits would be good for a year, after which the worker would need to get a permanent license from North Carolina.

Wells' bill now moves to the state House for further consideration.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed and sent to the House legislation to adopt a strategic plan to enhance benefits for veterans and their dependents. That bill, too, is designed to prepare North Carolina for the next time the military considers which bases to close or downsize.

©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com
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