Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill 7 in January during a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. From left to right are Brianna McKinnon, a military spouse and special education teacher, Rep. Rick Perales, Sen. Bob Hackett and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. LISA POWELL / STAFF

New laws aimed at making Ohio more military friendly, attracting new missions

Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law Tuesday legislation designed to make Ohio a more attractive destination for military families — something military leaders like to see when they make decisions about mission placement.

One of the bills that got DeWine’s signature, House Bill 16, is expected to benefit Wright-Patterson Air Force Base families who move into Ohio but don’t automatically qualify for lower in-state tuition reserved for longtime residents.

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The change will make Ohio more attractive to military families, state Rep. Rick Perales said.

“This is getting to be in the top five, if not the top three, of the most military-friendly states in the union,” the Beavercreek Republican said.

“This makes us a more attractive base, not only for military members and veterans, but for mission relocation,” he added.

The signing of the bills was captured virtually as onlookers and participants spoke and looked on from their computers.

Chris Kershner, executive vice president with the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said Cassie Barlow — a retired commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — helped draft HB 16 and brought the issue to Perales’ attention.

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“This is a huge win for our military community, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and also for economic development,” Kershner said.

Also signed Tuesday was House Bill 287, which will allow reciprocity for Medicaid home and community-based service waivers for active-duty military family members with special needs when families move to Ohio for military assignments.

And Ohio House Bill 81 was also signed. That legislation provides health assessments for detention facility employees when they are exposed to bodily fluids from prisoners and detainees, as Perales described the bill.

These aren’t the first military family friendly bills that DeWine has signed into law this year.

The governor signed Ohio Senate Bill 7 in a January visit to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force this year, requiring state occupational licensing agencies to issue temporary licenses or certificates to uniformed service members and their spouses who are validly licensed in another jurisdiction and have moved to Ohio for military duty.

That bill often saves family members a great deal of time and money, sparing them the need to secure new occupational licenses.

Dayton advocates have increasingly emphasized making Ohio and the Dayton region more attractive to military families in ways they hope military decision-makers will notice.

“This is three big ones just under this (General Assembly),” Perales said, referring to Senate Bill 7 and two of the military-related bills DeWine signed Tuesday.

“The family friendly nature of the state matters,” said Joe Zeis Jr., a Dayton attorney and retired Air Force officer who acts as senior adviser for aerospace and defense in the DeWine administration.

“This type of legislation is exactly what the U.S. Department of Defense is looking for when they locate new missions at military installations like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” the chamber said in January after Senate Bill 7 was signed. “This bill is a great win for our military community, our higher education organizations.”

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