State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Op Ed

Where Are the People?

Bill to end occupational licensing backed by right wing groups, but just one worker testifies in favor.

By - Aug 29th, 2017 10:22 am
Citizen Koch

Citizen Koch

“This bill does not allow for public debate…is the public even aware? You’re not allowing the public to have adequate input into this issue,” testified Stephanie Bloomingdale.

Ms. Bloomingdale is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. She represented many workers who, along with the rest of us, just found out about bills that set up a process to get rid of occupational licensing.

In Wisconsin, many professions are licensed, such as plumbers, electricians, doctors, lawyers, architects, and teachers. Those folks affected by the bill had little time to become aware of efforts to change their professional credentials. The rest of us, who may hire plumbers or use deaf interpreters, had little way of knowing what was happening.

In what has been an all-to-common process of speed and secrecy, a public hearing notice was posted late Friday for a joint Assembly and Senate committee hearing the following Thursday. Scheduling a joint hearing means there is only this one opportunity for public input.

The bills, Senate Bills 288 and 296, set up an “occupational license review council” and a “self-certification registry.” In short, SB 288 creates a politically appointed council that would review all professional licensure requirements and recommend repeal of certain licenses.

Senate Bill 296 would create a registry for people to use the term “state certified.” This registry would allow individuals to work in a field even if they were unlicensed. The bill singled out certain professions for potential self-certification including dieticians, landscape architects, private detectives and sign language interpreters.

Two very different types of people came to testify during the all-day joint hearing.

On one side were conservative “think-tanks” who came from out-of-state to testify. Groups with names like the “Mercatus Center” and the “Institute for Justice.” According to Wikipedia, the Mercatus Center was founded with a $30 million-dollar Koch Industries donation and the founding CEO was a former Koch Industries lobbyist. Both the former lobbyist and Charles Koch serve as board members, according to the Center’s website. The “Institute for Justice” employs 39 attorneys and was co-founded in 1991 with seed money from Mr. Koch.

Two Milwaukee-based groups also joined in the push for the de-licensing process. According to press reports, the “Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty” and the “Wisconsin Policy Research Institute” are entities funded, in part, by the Bradley Foundation. The Koch-funded group “Americans for Prosperity” submitted written testimony and registered in favor of the bill.

On the other side were folks from all over Wisconsin who took the day off work to come to Madison and tell lawmakers about their profession. In every case, these people opposed the two bills before our committees.

Dozens of professionals explained what they did and how the public would not be well served by taking away the professional licensing process. Not only did licensing assure that a person was properly educated and skilled in their profession, but also the state’s involvement in overseeing professions protects consumers. When a licensed professional is guilty of a misdeed the state removes that professional’s license.

I asked the co-sponsors of SB 288 and 296 what type of protections consumers would have under the new regime if their bills became law. The answer was some version of “you can’t legislate everything so no one gets hurt”.

I’ve never seen a hearing that more clearly illustrated the power conservative “think tanks” have gained in the Capitol. A review of my notes shows only one ordinary Wisconsinite who testified in favor of the bills compared to the dozens who spoke in opposition.

The process laid out by the bills eerily reflected a process outlined in an August 2017 report by the Mercatis Center. This process included a commitment by elected officials that they would accept the Council’s recommendation “in their entirety or not at all.” Parts of one bill contained wording identical to 2013 model legislation set out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Where are the people in this process?

I wondered, where are the people in this process and why do these groups want to remake Wisconsin in their own image.

“What, do you suppose, is the real purpose of these bills?” I asked.

“We’ve seen a pattern to drive down wages and workers’ rights,” Ms. Bloomingdale replied.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is a member of the Wisconsin state Senate.

Categories: Business, Op-Ed, Politics

8 thoughts on “Op Ed: Where Are the People?”

  1. Jason Troll says:

    Vinehout, again proves how out of touch she is with the lower working class. If an adult wants a part time job while in school, They have to pony up $80 bucks every two years to continue to work.

  2. mkwagner says:

    There is a reason why professions that have a direct impact on peoples lives and well-being have been licensed; to ensure public safety. Before this was the case, anyone could hang a shingle and call himself a doctor. In times past, in small rural villages the barber was also the local doctor or the undertaker served as the doctor. Most patients died. Who knows whether if death resulted from the disease or the treatment. Jason, would you want you home wired by an electrician who doesn’t know what he or she is doing? Electrical fires kill! The professions under consideration are not lower working class, these are solid middle class professions. However, if licensure is taken away than anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves an electrician or plumber or dietitian. That will drive down the incomes these professionals can make. No doubt, the underlying purpose of this legislation. Of course the real target of this legislation is teachers. Conservative think tanks have long believed that anyone with content knowledge can teach. This is in spite of growing research demonstrating that there are specific skills required to facilitate learning that go way beyond content delivery.

    The bottom line is, attacking middle class workers is not the way to build a strong economy. Just like attacking teachers is not the way to build a strong education system.

  3. Carol Limbach says:

    I earned three (3) Licenses during my career: Certified Substance Abuse Counselor; Social Worker & Clinical Services Supervisor. The credentialing process ensures Clients are receiving quality care. Professionals are also required to ipaticipate in continuing education (CEUs). Licensure also ensures professionals are held accountable.
    Dismantling Licensure is another step in Wisconsin’s “Race To The Bottom”!

  4. Denny says:

    You can expect nothing less from this Republican legislation. The anti labor, anti regulations, anti tax, will not stop as long as they are in power and they stay in power by passing laws dreamed up by the likes of these mega weathy donors and their hide behind think tanks.

  5. James T says:

    One thing Senator Vinehout chooses to leave out is that the same process laid out in the bill was recommended in a report released by the Obama White House. If there is one issue where economists on both the left and right agree it’s that we overregulate the labor market through occupational licensure. All of the evidence shows that licensure lowers employment, raises prices on consumers and has no real effect on quality of service. For goodness sake The bill just reviews licenses and makes recommendations. What a scary right wing proposition? *eye roll* Don’t letthe facts get in the way of boogie man politics and straw man arguments.

    I think the quality of this op-ed is subpar. Maybe the Senator needs a license

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    “All of the evidence shows that licensure lowers employment, raises prices on consumers and has no real effect on quality of service.”

    This is interesting.

    “The researchers speculate that licenses help equate pay because some employers make discriminatory assumptions about the quality of a worker based on race, gender, or criminal history. A license provides a signal of a high-quality worker.”

  7. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    There are 2 bigger themes here

    1. The ALEC crew that commands the Wisconsin GOP wants to suppress wages and end expertise any way they can. This does both, in a very Wal-Martish “race to the bottom” way.

    2. Vinehout gives a great illustration,of who the WisGOPs listen to and work for. And it isn’t the average person who works a real job. It is all kickbacks and favor-trading to donors and oligarchs. KNOW THIS

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    I got my hair cut today and asked the woman who cut my hair for her perspective. The place is middle-of-the-road, more expensive than say Supercuts or Cost Cutters but much cheaper than high-end salons/barbershops. She is adamantly opposed to this, as is everyone she works with and knows in the industry. She is 24 and owns her own three-bedroom townhouse in Wauwatosa. It costs her $78 to renew her license every two years. Fees do not prohibit people from entering or staying in the profession. She worries about a number of things. Health and sanitation problems since that is part of the job. Lowering of professional standards. She says if lawmakers really want to help make a difference they could stop taxing her tips. This is a solution in search of a problem and it’s only going to cause problems in the end. She believes licensure helps her profession, keeps it safe and respectable.

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