S.L. 2019-201 (S 230) NC Military and Veteran Act of 2019

By Nicholas “Nick” Dowgul

S.L. 2019-201 (S 230) NC Military and Veteran Act of 2019

North Carolina is home to the highest number of active and inactive military members in the entire Union. The legislature has taken steps to make sure that members of the military and veterans are not negatively influenced by their service to our country. The changes under the NC Military and Veteran Act may also help service members decide to stay in NC or help position NC to keep its bases when the next BRAC base closure commission acts. In August of 2019, the General Assembly enacted changes to numerous military and veteran related statutes. S.L. 2019-201 (S 230) is called the “NC Military and Veteran Act of 2019”. The statutory changes concern the State Board of Education, occupational licensing, social service investigations, as well as in-state tuition residency requirements.

Children of military members and providing for excused absences from school

Prior to the below additions to North Carolina General Statute 115C-379(b)(2), the State Board of Education was only authorized by the state legislature to adopt rules that excused absences of a temporary nature for a student with a physical or mental inability to attend school as well as circumstances whereby a student may be excused for nonattendance to do farm work or work at home. In an effort to ensure that children of military members do not receive unexcused absences because of a military member’s change in deployment status, part 1 of the Military and Veteran Act of 2019 directs the State Board of Education to enact rules providing for specified excused absences from school for children of members of the armed forces of the United States.

Under the additions to N.C.G.S 115C-379(b)(2), a school principal shall authorize excused absences for students of military members if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The student’s parent or legal guardian is an active duty service member
  • The parent or legal guardian is:
    • Called to duty
    • On leave from duty, or
    • Has just returned from combat deployment or combat support posting and
    • The student cannot be at risk for academic failure though and the excused absences are at a minimum of two per academic year.

In addition, a military member’s child shall be given the opportunity to make up any test or other academic work due to the excused absences under the statute.

The Potential Expansion of Occupational Licensing Opportunities for Military Members and Their Spouses

The second part of the Act focuses on occupational licensing. It has the potential to allow expansion of the criteria set forth in N.C.G.S. 93B-15.1 to allow for the licensure of more military members and their spouses. Now, I say ‘potentially’ because Part II, Section 2(a) of the Act is only allowing a study to be conducted by the Program Evaluation Division, in consultation with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The study is meant to determine what provisions of N.C.G.S. 93B-15.1 have actually improved the capability of military member applicants and their spouses to become licensed by their occupational licensing boards in the state of North Carolina.

N.C.G.S. 93B-15.1 already allowed for a military-trained license applicant and/or her/his spouse who holds an occupational license in another jurisdiction to be issued a license, after proper application, if they meet certain criteria, such as:

  • Passing an occupational exam in another jurisdiction of equal or greater competency than the occupational exam in North Carolina,
  • Having practiced under that occupational license at least two of the last five years or, in the case of a military-trained license applicant, been awarded a specialty in the occupation.
    The applicant must also not have committed any act in any jurisdiction that was grounds for licensure revocation, suspension, or refusal.

The Program Evaluation Division is to consider the following factors when they are conducting the study of the N.C.G.S. 93B-15.1 provisions. Those factors are:

(1) Whether the criteria in G.S. 93B-15.1 should be expanded to allow for the licensure of more military-trained applicants and military spouses,

(2) The effectiveness of publishing information on the criteria for licensure of military spouses, as required by G.S. 93B-15.1, and whether there are additional platforms on which this information should be published to ensure broader dissemination to military spouses,

(3) The feasibility and effectiveness of including a question about military status, including status as a military spouse, on applications for licensure,

(4) Determining what steps can be taken to provide or enhance continuing education programs to assist military spouses in maintaining an active occupational license, even if issued by another state,

(5) Providing training for at least one employee in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs on the licensure process outlined in G.S. 93B-15.1 for military-trained applicants and military spouses, and considering ways in which to disseminate information about this employee’s availability to applicants,

(6) Whether to develop a process for annually gathering data from all occupational licensing boards on the number of military-trained applicants and military spouses who:

(i) Were licensed pursuant to G.S. 93B-15.1 or under the existing licensure, certification, or registration requirements established by occupational licensing boards and

(ii) Were denied licensure.

The data shall include a summary of the reasons military-trained applicants and military spouses were denied licensure, but shall not disclose any identifying information about any applicant. S.L. 2019-201 (S 230) NC Military and Veteran Act of 2019 Part II Section 2(a).

Changes to Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency Assessment Requirements 

Prior to the 2019 changes, because of juvenile justice confidentiality laws, a local director of a Department of Social Services (DSS) could not notify a military authority of any potential abuse or neglect on a juvenile by a service member. Nor did the local DSS director’s investigation encompass an inquiry into the military affiliation of the parent, guardian, etc. of the abused or neglected juvenile. Involving the appropriate military authority into this process allows the military to be abreast of the situation and take appropriate action concerning the military member’s service status.

Section 3(a) of the NC Military and Veteran Act of 2019 adds language to N.C.G.S. 7B-302. Those changes grant authority to a local DSS director to gather information concerning the military affiliation of the parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker of a juvenile that has been allegedly abused or neglected. The purpose of the assessment is to determine if there is evidence to support an allegation as to abuse, neglect or dependency, of a juvenile.

The other major change to N.C.G.S. 7B-302 has to do with disclosure a local DSS director can make of the information. That disclosure of confidential information shall be made to “the appropriate military authority if the director finds evidence that a juvenile may have been abused or neglected and the parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker of the juvenile alleged to have been abused or neglected has a military affiliation.”

In-State Tuition Rate Changes for Military Service Members and Their Families 

In an effort to provide cost-effective tuition to military service members and qualifying members of their families, the Act made changes to N.C.G.S. 116-143.3A to allow for in-state tuition rates to apply to family members of an eligible veteran even if he/she does not meet the 12-month residency requirement. While overdue, this change ensures that service members’ families, who may be quickly uprooted, are not further burdened with the expense of out-of-state tuition at a public college or university in their new home state.

I would like to extend a deep gratitude to all the service members not only in the great state of North Carolina, but all over the United States. Also, I would like to recognize the changes the General Assembly has made recently that correct impacts servicemembers and their families may have because of the nature of military service.