On April 13, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that waives the professional licensee renewal fee and continuing education requirements for U.S. Armed Forces members holding a professional or occupational license administered by the Dept. of Regulatory Agency�s Division of Registrations.

Engineer Inspires Law to Help Licensed Military Personnel
Photo: Gabriel Christus
Left to right: TSgt. Michael Retland, licensed journeyman electrician, Colorado Air National Guard, and his daughter Rachel; Michael Griffeth, president of Griffeth Structural LLC; Colorado state Rep. Sue Schafer; 2nd Lt. Rexford Canady, licensed architect, Colorado Air National Guard; and Maj. Ronald Geurts, professional engineer, Colorado Air National Guard; look on as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signs HB 11-1013 into law.

The law applies to military personnel who have served in a federal status at least 120 days during a particular renewal cycle in support of war, emergency or contingency operation.

The bill emerged at a grass-roots level in spring 2010 when veteran and licensed professional engineer Michael Griffeth was rebuilding his engineering business following 6 1/2 years of military service that included a nine-month involuntary mobilization for a tour in Iraq. The former U.S. Air Force captain and civil engineering officer in the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard is also president of Griffeth Structural LLC and licensed to work as an engineer in 13 states. As he was working to restart his business, he found that Idaho and several other states had laws to support professionally licensed military personnel during periods of active duty service, but Colorado was not among them.

Griffeth decided to contact his local legislator, state Rep. Sue Schafer, to see if something could be done to address the issue in Colorado. “I had never been involved in the political process before, and I was surprised when Rep. Schafer quickly called in response to my e-mail. We met in April to discuss this, and she thought it was a good idea and suggested we meet again following the November elections.”

Griffeth, a member of the American Council of Engineering Cos. of Colorado, also contacted the council’s executive director, Marilen Reimer, where he found another ally in developing legislation. Reimer gave him guidance on testifying and as well as sharing the council’s support for the effort. 

“Rep. Schafer asked that I draft language for the bill, and then in December, we met with representatives from DORA, the Dept. of Military & Veterans Affairs, attorneys from the state and lobbyists from the United Veterans Committee, and drafted language similar to the Idaho law,” Griffeth said.

Schafer introduced the bill in early January, the first week of the legislative session.  At a House hearing of the State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, both Griffeth and Reimer were among those who testified, and the bill was unanimously supported.

Sponsored by Schafer and Sen. Bob Bacon, the bill unanimously passed both houses of the legislature, making it one of approximately 300 bills that are passed during the Colorado legislature’s 120-day session each year.

Although led by a professional engineer, the law benefits a wide range of licensed professionals covered by DORA ranging from accountants, audiologists, architects, dentists, electricians, engineers and optometrists to physical therapists, pharmacists, physicians, plumbers, psychologists, registered nurses, social workers and veterinarians.

There is no significant monetary benefit, but it does help active-duty military, reservists and members of the National Guard. “It’s really an emotional ‘thank you’ and shows that Colorado recognizes and honors the commitment and sacrifice of our military personnel and their families,” said Griffeth. “Those serving in the National Guard already live dual lives, and this is one less item our military personnel have to keep track of to maintain their civilian credentials.

“I never thought I could have this kind of access or impact,” Griffeth said. 

“The process was rewarding, and I would encourage veterans, members of my profession and others to get to know your legislator and engage in the process.  I learned that one person can make a difference and I would not hesitate to call upon my local representatives again,” he added.

“This is an excellent bill, and I thank Michael for bringing the idea to my attention. I also thank the veterans and family members. We need to be as generous as possible to help military personnel, those who protect us,” Schafer said.