MADISON, Wis. - A conservative group is joining a group of people calling for fewer professional licenses in Wisconsin.
The libertarian public interest firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty published a report Tuesday calling for a rollback of some licenses, including for professions like auctioneers, bartenders and sign-language interpreters.
"Ultimately, this is about reigning in a system that has gotten far beyond its original intent of protecting health and public safety, "said Collin Roth, research fellow with WILL.
The WILL report said there are more than 440,000 credential-holders regulated by the state and that has increased 34 percent since 1996.
The possibility of curtailing those requirements is part of the Assembly Republican agenda they plan to pursue in January. Gov. Scott Walker has talked about making changes, as well as President Barack Obama.
But not everyone thinks it is a good idea to remove the requirements.
The deaf community and sign-language interpreters fought for years for there to be a licensing requirement for those who interpret for the deaf. A law was passed in 2010 requiring them to be licensed, following the bill proposed by Republicans and passed through both houses on wide bipartisan margins.
Paul Fuerst, of Waunakee, said he's used sign-language interpreters for nearly his whole life and says it wasn't easy when requirements were not involved.
"My wife was pregnant and going into labor at the time and they told us to go to the hospital, so last minute, they were looking to find an interpreter," Fuerst said. "Someone showed up who was functioning in the role of an interpreter, and this is pre-licensure, who really was only a basic signer, who was still learning the language of sign language. At that point it was a huge disconnect, we were not able to communicate with the doctor."
He calls the need for licensing for ASL interpreters a matter of equality.
"I would say, just like you wouldn't get rid of credentials for other professions, I would not go to a doctor that wasn't board certified," Fuerst said.
Auctioneers are also on the list that WILL thinks could have licenses eliminated.
A.G. Hawley, who has been in the business for 30 years in Mt. Horeb, disagrees.
"You have to have a license to auction in the state of Wisconsin from the state of Wisconsin," Hawley said. "It keeps these fly-by-night characters out of our state that might not have any scruples."
The WILL report argues that licensing requirements for many jobs raises prices and reduces competition, making it harder for people to find jobs. They have put together a list of options for lawmakers of also creating optional "state certifications," as has been done in other states, or creating review boards for certain types of licenses to see if they're serving a purpose.
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