By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ incompetent licensing agency will go dark for a few weeks later this month as it transitions to an electronic filing system.
That means the dysfunction at the Department of Safety and Professional Services is about to get even worse for the professionals stuck in the mess that is DSPS. And the chairman of the Assembly committee investigating the government agency’s massive backlog says he’s not sure when — or if — things will improve.
DSPS recently announced it will not accept initial license applications for 72 license types between noon, April 29 and May 15. Professionals from acupuncturists to wholesale distributors of prescription drugs will be affected. Applications received after 12 p.m. on April 29 will not be processed. Paper applications postmarked after that date will be returned to applicants.
Other licenses (initial applications and renewals) will transition to the LicensE system in subsequent phases, the agency said.
“The black-out period is a critical step to ensuring the successful launch of this new system,” DSPS stated in a press release.
State Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), chair of the Assembly Committee on Regulatory Licensing Reform, said the department hasn’t instilled in him a lot of confidence.
“They said, ‘We don’t know and we won’t be able to answer until fall or winter,’” Sortwell said. “So they think this is going to make things better but they have no projections yet. And now they’re going to shut things down.”
Tierney, who joined the agency in 2019 at the start of Democrat Gov. Tony Evers’ term, blamed the Republican-controlled Legislature for not providing the funding to fix the antiquated system. But the Joint Finance Committee last year included $5 million in the budget that DSPS could have tapped for modernizing the credential processing system, Sortwell said.
“They never requested it,” the lawmaker added.
Instead, Evers used a portion of the billions of dollars in federal COVID aid he has at his disposal.
As Empower Wisconsin has reported, DSPS has become Evers’ latest Department of Workforce Development, a disaster of an agency that left tens of thousands of unemployed Wisconsinites waiting months — some more than a year — for their unemployment benefits. DSPS applicants, like DWD claimants, have been forced to remain on hold for hours to speak to someone. Scores have testified about lost paperwork, glacial response times, and mind-numbing bureaucratic hoops and hurdles.
“The current situation is creating chaos,” Dennis Kaster, president of the American Physical Therapy Association, said in his testimony before the committee.
Sortwell said the complaints haven’t stopped in the month since the public hearing. He has been named co-chair of a study committee on reforming the state’s occupational licensing laws.
“If the governor can’t run his department efficiently, we’re going to look at reforms so his incompetence can’t continue to screw up our state, whether he’s re-elected or not,” Sortwell said.