Governor Pat Quinn today celebrated the Fourth of July by signing a package of bills helping more members of the United States Armed Forces, Reserves and Illinois National Guard find employment as police officers, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and commercial vehicle drivers. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to support our Veterans and servicemembers. The new laws will utilize the experience, teamwork and discipline servicemembers gain on the front lines to help serve the public on the home front.
"Our servicemembers and Veterans are some of the best-trained men and women in the world and are perfectly suited for a number of important jobs," Governor Quinn said. "Anyone who has driven a military vehicle in Iraq should be qualified to drive a commercial vehicle in Illinois. Anyone who has treated shrapnel wounds from an IED in Afghanistan should be able to treat an accident victim here."
"Our Illinois National Guard Soldiers and Airmen go through exceptional training with the highest standards to earn the titles of military police officers or medics or truck drivers," said Brig. Gen. Daniel M. Krumrei, Illinois National Guard Adjutant General. "As citizen-Soldiers, this is a great opportunity for them to apply those military-acquired skills in the civilian sector."
"Thanks to Governor Quinn's leadership and the efforts by the sponsors of these bills, our Illinois Veterans will have additional access to jobs and opportunities," Erica Borggren, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs said. "Illinois Veterans appreciate these important acts to ease the transition into the civilian workforce."
House Bill 2563 allows members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves and Illinois National Guard who have at least two years experience operating a military motor vehicle to bypass the state skills test in applying for a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Sponsored by State Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and State Sen. Tony Muñoz (D-Chicago), the new law will help address a shortage of CDL drivers across the nation and provide an additional career path for servicemembers.
"This concept came up in discussions with my district Veteran's Advisory Council as a way to help military personnel transition quickly back into the private sector," State Rep. Pritchard said. "This legislation gives Veterans credit for skills learned while serving in the military as they apply for civilian licenses and jobs."
"Veterans who have extensive experience in driving commercial vehicles should not have to pay to take a test," State Sen. Muñoz said. "This will allow our Veterans coming home from active duty to attain their CDL more quickly and find employment."
Sponsored by State Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Galesburg) and State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign), House Bill 3186 recognizes members of the armed forces, Reserves and Illinois National Guard's military training and clinical experience when applying to be an EMT. The bill also waives the application fee for all Illinois State Troopers or members of the Illinois National Guard who volunteer as an EMT in a municipality with a population of 5,000 or fewer. Supported by the State's Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council, the new law will help create more EMTs in underserved areas and throughout Illinois.
"By signing HB 3186 into law, Governor Quinn is doing two very important things," State Rep. Moffitt said. "First, it allows communities across the state to benefit from the valuable and extensive training and skills in EMS that many of our Veterans bring back to civilian life and can be used to make our communities even safer places. Second, it is a way to express our appreciation to our Veterans for their service by opening more job opportunities for them using some skills gained in the military. It's a win-win."
"There is an increasing need for EMTs in rural communities throughout Illinois, however, it has been difficult to recruit candidates to fill these positions," State Sen. Frerichs said. "I am proud we found a way to not only recruit qualified EMTs but to make it easier for former members of the military to bring the skills they learned in the field back to our communities."
Senate Bill 204 -- sponsored by State Sen. Muñoz and Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) -- makes college degree requirement exemptions for certain members of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Illinois National Guard looking to become Illinois State Police officers. Current law permitting the exemption already exists, but only lists two medals as requirements to qualify for exemption. The new law will expand the list of medals required, helping more servicemembers find employment.
"This legislation will create more opportunities for Veterans to become Illinois State Police officers, and I am pleased that the governor signed it into law," State Rep. Hoffman said. "The skills our servicemen and women acquire in the armed forces make them a valuable asset in the law enforcement field."
HB 2563, HB 3186 and SB 204 are all effective Jan.1.