BOSTON (WWLP) – A special signing ceremony was held Tuesday at Hanscom Air Force Base to enact the SPEED Act into law.
With members of the Massachusetts National Guard and military families from across the state looking on, Governor Baker signed the legislation that will help military families get quicker access to professional licensing and allow them to waive the proof of residency requirement when registering their children in a new school after receiving a relocation order.
The bill, an Act relative to Military Spouse Licensure Portability, Education and Enrollment of Dependents, better known as the SPEED Act, was originally signed by Baker in August when it was passed unanimously in both chambers of the state legislature. Tuesday’s signing was a ceremonial gesture in an effort to show support for military families who worked for the law’s passage.
Senator John C. Velis (D-Westfield), the law’s author and Chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans’ Committee, attended the event along with Major General Gary W. Keefe, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, Secretary Cheryl Poppe of the Department of Veterans’ Services and State Representative Paul McMurtry.
“At the most fundamental level, this law is about recognizing that when an individual signs up for the United States Armed Services, it is not just them that is signing up, it is their entire family,” said Senator Velis. “From speeding up the professional licensure process for military spouses so that they can continue their careers, to allowing advanced and virtual enrollment for military children to resolve disruptions in education, this law ensures that we are taking care of our military families here in Massachusetts.”
“Massachusetts has a strong history of supporting our nation’s military, and we are proud that thousands of servicemembers and their families call the Commonwealth their home,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The SPEED Act makes Massachusetts a more welcoming place for military families transferring here by streamlining the occupational licensing process so military spouses can continue their professional careers and by making it easier for those families to access educational opportunities in the Commonwealth. In addition, I am pleased that this new law will create a Medal of Fidelity so that Massachusetts can recognize fallen heroes who lost their lives to the hidden wounds of war. We are grateful to the many military family members who supported this important proposal and to our legislative colleagues for passing this bill.”
“This is a historic bill. This is most likely the most encompassing military and veterans bill passed in the Commonwealth in the last century,” said Major General Keefe. “This bill will make it clear to every state in the republic that Massachusetts is unmatched in its care and support of its military members, veterans, and their families.”
A news release sent by Senator Velis’ office outlined the contents of the bill:
The SPEED Act creates a new 30-day expedited licensing process for military spouses to receive licenses issued by the Division of Occupational Licensure (DOL) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) if they are licensed in another state and meet necessary requirements. The law also allows for granting of automatic 3-year teaching certificates for spouses of active-duty military members serving in Massachusetts or a bordering state if they are licensed in another state, enabling them to work before completing testing requirements for the regular certificate.
The SPEED Act will help military families transferring to Massachusetts by allowing them to enroll students in K-12 school in advance and without having to physically appear. The law extends Massachusetts residency or “in-state” status at public colleges and universities to any active-duty US military member, spouse, or child who is stationed in the state. It also establishes the “Purple Star Campus” program to designate schools that demonstrate a commitment to students and families of service members.
The law introduces new benefits and services for Veterans and National Guard members and expands the ways the state recognizes service members:
- Establishes the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity to be awarded to the next-of-kin of service members who died as the result of service-connected diseases, conditions, or injuries, including PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or exposure to harmful toxins
- Establishes resources for service members exposed to burn pits and airborne hazards, and requires the state to assist service members in signing up for federal VA burn pit registry
- Establishes the Massachusetts National Guard Family Education Program to allow National Guard members to transfer unused education benefits to their dependents
- Establishes a $2,000 tax credit for businesses with less than 100 employees who hire and retain National Guard Members
- Expands resources for Veterans throughout the Commonwealth.