State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Op Ed

De-Licensing Bill Could Have Huge Impact

State requirements for nurses, plumbers, CPAs and other jobs could be scrapped.

By - Oct 4th, 2017 02:27 pm

Nurse. Photo by Rebecca20162393 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons [ ]

Nurse. Photo by Rebecca20162393 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons [ ]

Imagine you are with your loved one who is in the hospital. Night comes. You prepare to leave, gently kissing your loved one “good night”.

As you walk down the corridor and into the hospital parking lot, you might wonder how your loved one will feel in the morning. Will things be better, worse or stay the same?

One thing you don’t worry about is the quality of care provided to your loved one because the nurses working the night shift are licensed by the state.

Nurses and other professionals follow “standards of care” that are spelled out in their education and clinical training. They follow licensing and board requirements set in state law. Patients are protected from incompetent nurses by a board that oversees the practice of nursing. This is true for dozens of other professionals in Wisconsin.

Recently, a Senate committee on which I serve passed two bills that set up a process to potentially de-license professionals. Senate Bill 288 establishes a partisan appointed council that reviews licensing, registration or other state approval for ALL occupation and professional licensing in Wisconsin. Senate Bill 296 creates a process for self-certification that allows a person to claim “state certification” even though they may have no training or experience in their chosen occupation.

Electricians, nurses, certified public accountants, plumbers, physical therapists, doctors, and other professionals will have their licensing and continuing education requirements reviewed by a non-elected, partisan council. The Council would have the power to write and introduce a bill making changes to the laws governing occupational licensing. These powers are generally reserved for lawmakers.

The process set up by these bills is eerily similar to a process laid out in an August 2017 publication of the ideologically conservative Mercatus Center:

Policymakers…would be wise to follow these steps:

  1. Pass legislation that sets an ambitious goal for the elimination of licenses and the reduction of licensing burdens.
  2. Establish an independent commission charged with examining the state’s licensing laws. …the commission should be charged with evaluating all licenses.
  3. The commission should be charged with setting a comprehensive path for licensure elimination and reform. The authorizing legislation should commit elected officials to accepting the commission’s recommendations in their entirety or not at all.

…the institutional structure that we recommend borrows elements from other reforms that have succeeded in eliminating favoritism. In particular, it allows elected officials to case conspicuous votes in the public interest while giving them some degree of “cover” from the special interests that will inevitably be harmed by the elimination of their regulatory privilege.

Let’s break down that last sentence.

The elected officials cast “votes in the public interest” – your elected representative is voting to de-license your plumber. “Giving them some degree of ‘cover’” – your elected official is now able to say, “I didn’t really want to de-license your plumber, but it was part of a larger bill and I couldn’t change the bill.”

“Special interests that will inevitably be harmed”—those “special interests” would be the plumbers’ union or the nurses’ association.

The public likely did not hear about the de-licensure plan because the daylong hearing by both the Senate and Assembly committees happened at exactly the same time as the public hearing on Foxconn. The Foxconn hearing dominated headlines, not the concerns of over 100 Wisconsinites who traveled to Madison to testify or register against the de-licensure bills. Those speaking in favor of the bills were, almost exclusively, conservative ideological groups.

When I asked what problem the bills were trying to solve, proponents said they wanted to eliminate “fence me out” legislation that left people unable to get into a desired profession. When I asked them to provide me a list of professions with licenses that create a “fence me out” problem, they did not give me a single example.

Over the years, the Legislature created licensure requirements in conjunction with professionals. If we have unnecessary licensing, committees of the Legislature should review details of a professional license and determine if change is necessary.

Setting up a process to de-license professionals by unelected appointees is an attempt by conservative ideological groups to remake Wisconsin in their own image. In fact, a republican colleague commented that these ideological groups have become a shadow legislature.

These bills need to be stopped.

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

Categories: Business, Op-Ed, Politics

4 thoughts on “Op Ed: De-Licensing Bill Could Have Huge Impact”

  1. Eric J says:

    So you want to be a ” Licensed Practical Nurse” No problem now -” self certify ” a see who will hire you . In any position a certain level of skill is required to become eligible to be hired. Licensing just shortened that time frame of individual proof.

    George Costanza : ” I always wanted to be a banker or maybe an architect. ” Now is your chance to become what you don’t have any qualifications for.
    -This is more republican legislative nonsense much like the felons possessing firearms that are at least 100 years old.

  2. John says:

    I just got out of the Hospital. I went into her ER with chest pains, dizziness and nausea. I was rushed in back where I was taken care of as though I was a head of state. The nurses, doctors and everyone else that came in to the room informed me of what was going on, asked me questions and listened intently to my responses and my personal input. I had to spend the night and was treated with knowledgable people that didn’t just do things but explained procedures to me in medical terms and if I wasn’t sure of what they said they took the time to translate them to layman’s terms. I felt confident and secure especially since I was talking about possible pulmonary embolisms, mild heartache or stroke. Now the legislature wants to allow less trained people to work in hospitals where lives of their constituents will be put as risk for conservative ideological groups that are making up problems and have no examples or facts why they want to change the laws. Why does the general population have to suffer while secretly funded politicians force the wishes of secretive groups that get their private agendas passed either in the late hours of night or hidden in larger hearings?

  3. Adam says:

    All part of the GOP plan to drive down the cost of labor aka. your paycheck. Let’s just send us back to the good old days when Doc gave you a shot of whiskey before operating and everyone carried six shooters in there holster. Now that was utopia, get rid of this nanny state sissy nonsense!
    /sarcasm off/

  4. Dennis says:

    The only reason for this bill is to drive down labor cost. anyone can be a nurse, electrician, plumber, architect, etc by simply saying they are. Today you are a plumber, tomorrow a nurse. You don’t have to prove who you are or what you know.. we will just have more Craigs and Angie lists because we know how well that works.

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