Rep. Brostoff can finally get a haircut — bill to protect deaf community passes Legislature

Bill heads to Gov. Evers' desk
Rep. Brostoff can finally get a haircut — bill to protect deaf community passes Legislature

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff is jumping for joy now that a bill he’s been pushing for more than a year is on its way to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk, but he might be just as happy that he’s finally able to cut off his long locks.

“I’m thrilled,” Brostoff told News 3 Now. “It’s a big step forward for deaf access in Wisconsin.”

Brostoff authored a bipartisan measure that provides more regulations and protections for the deaf community and addresses Wisconsin’s shortage of sign language interpreters.

But the Democratic representative from Milwaukee had a rather unusual way of drawing attention to the cause. Brostoff vowed not to cut his hair until both houses of the Wisconsin state Legislature passed the bill. He wanted to show members of the deaf community they had an ally at the state Capitol by using a “visual cue.”

The state Assembly passed the bill last week followed Wednesday afternoon by the Senate. The measure now heads to Evers.

Brostoff now plans to celebrate the bill passing with an event Monday night at Have a Good Hair Day Salon in Milwaukee.

The salon’s owner, Kayleigh Rucktenwald, became profoundly deaf at 19 months old from bacterial meningitis, according to the salon’s website.

“It’s a good opportunity to highlight a deaf business,” Brostoff said.

He joked that cutting off his hair will make his basketball game “more aerodynamic” and said his baby son won’t be able to pull on his ‘fro anymore.

The proposal would replace the current program for renewing sign language interpreter licenses under the Department of Safety and Professional Services with new categories of interpreter licenses.

The proposal would create a tiered system in which only the most experienced interpreters could work in legal, mental health and medical settings — “high risk” situations where the life of a person who is deaf could be at risk.

Members of the Wisconsin Association of the Deaf previously told News 3 Now that not having experienced sign language interpreters can lead to people who are deaf not understanding and have negative consequences on their health.

Under current law, entry level interpreters can renew their licenses twice before taking a test to advance, and if they do not advance, they have to leave the profession. That has caused more than 100 sign language interpreters to leave the field, according to a news release from Brostoff and the three other lawmakers who authored the legislation.

“I definitely poured my heart and soul into this, but it was a team effort,” Brostoff said.

The measure makes entry level licenses renewable indefinitely and allows other examinations to be introduced in the state.

The Sign Language Interpreter Council would be eliminated under the bill and replaced with the Sign Language Interpreters Advisory Committee. The committee would advise and consult with the state on investigations related to sign language interpreters.

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