Julie Grace Licensure Reform Testimony

On February 18, 2020, Badger Institute Policy Analyst Julie Grace testified in favor of 2019 SB 746, SB 747, and SB 760 before the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations.

Read a transcript of Julie's testimony below.

Read more about 2019 SB 746 here, SB 747 here, and SB 760 here.

Senator Kapenga and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for holding this hearing today and for allowing me to testify in support of Senate Bill 746, Senate Bill 747 and Senate Bill 760, all of which would positively impact and streamline the state’s licensing process.

I’m a policy analyst at the Badger Institute. As most of you know, we’ve conducted research and told stories of many people affected by the state’s burdensome licensing process and requirements over the years. And too many times, we’ve heard that Wisconsinites who simply want to work are either turned away or forced to wait – sometimes years on end – before they can enter or return to their desired field.

Licensing impacts nearly a fifth of Wisconsin’s workforce. And the state now issues more than one million regulations – including licenses, certifications, registrations or permits – to its workers.

In a moment, I’ll introduce Meggan Thompson, who unfortunately, experienced numerous burdensome and pointless hurdles to obtaining her social work license after practicing in California for more than a decade. First, I’d like to briefly address the three bills.

SB 760 would give the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) the authority to recommend granting or denying an application for licensure to the respective licensing board. If DSPS recommends approving the application, the board has 10 days to act, or the application is automatically approved.

In our recent report, Absence and Violation, we found that most of Wisconsin’s licensing boards very rarely meet – sometimes only quarterly or less. When the boards do meet, much of their activity often takes place in private or closed session. Speeding up and opening up this process by requiring a licensing board to act on an application within 10 days after DSPS’ recommendation would alleviate some of the pressures placed on licensing boards. More importantly, it would allow more Wisconsinites to get to work much sooner.

SB 746 would allow DSPS to waive investigations of certain low-level, nonviolent offenses when considering an application for a license. The Badger Institute has done a great deal of research in the area of criminal justice policy and worked with civil society organizations that help ex-offenders find employment. Research and experience both show that when those with a record find work, their likelihood of committing a new crime drops dramatically. At the same time, Wisconsin employers are desperate for workers. This bill would remove obstacles to employment without jeopardizing public safety.

SB 747 would allow DSPS to grant a temporary license to certain applicants so that they can practice in their desired field and earn a living while the application is reviewed. These applicants would follow the same laws and procedures as their peers working in the same field. If their application is ultimately approved by DSPS, the temporary status is removed, and they’re required to simply renew their license depending on the credential’s requirements. If DSPS determines they’re not eligible to practice in their field, their temporary license immediately expires.

I’d now like to introduce Meggan Thompson, who I believe, could have benefited from this proposed legislation if it was a law a little over a year ago. Meggan moved to Wisconsin with her family in pursuit of a better quality of life and lower cost of living. She’s earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California (USC), practiced in the field, and now teaches online courses at USC.

But she had to wait more than a year to get her license in Wisconsin. No one should have to forgo a year of income or the ability to practice their profession because of hurdles imposed by the state or rules established by those already practicing in the field. We should be making it easier, not harder, for people like Meggan to live and work here in our state. I’d now like to invite Meggan to share with us a bit more of her story.

Following Meggan’s testimony, we’re both willing to answer any questions. Again, thank you for holding this hearing today and for considering these three important bills that we believe would impact many Wisconsinites, who, like Meggan, simply want to work.