All Posts by Empower Wisconsin

Legislative committee meets today on license crisis

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — A special legislative committee investigating Gov. Tony Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Safety and Professional Services holds a meeting today into Wisconsin’s professional license backlog crisis.

The Study Committee on Occupational Licensing is scheduled to open the session at 10 a.m. in Room 411 South at the Capitol.

Representatives from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and DSPS are scheduled to appear.

Professionals and representatives from professional organizations will testify at the committee’s public hearing in late September, according to the office of state Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers), who co-chairs the study committee with Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond).

As Empower Wisconsin has detailed, professionals — from psychologists and social workers to security professionals  have experienced the same kinds of bureaucratic nightmares as the tens of thousands of jobless Wisconsinites stuck in Evers’ incompetent Department of Workforce Development. Many say DSPS left them on hold for hours, lost their paperwork, and failed to update their files. The story is the same over and over again: DSPS is quick to cash their checks, very slow to process their license applications.

In one recent case, a representative for a professional organization complained to Sen. Dale Kooyenga’s office that two license applicants were double-charged for their license fee. DSPS refused to correct the error.

“We will not issue the refund until the license is issued, in case the applicants do not pass the exams and have to pay a re-take fee, or have not paid the CIB (Criminal Background Check) fee,” a DSPS agent responded in an email. “Once the license is issued, the refund will be processed. I hope that helps.”

For untold applicants stuck in bureaucratic limbo, help has come very late, if at all. And there’s been seemingly no urgency at the top.

As Empower Wisconsin reported last week in a special report, in more than 100 pages of communications between DSPS Secretary-designee Dawn Crim, Evers and his chief of staff Maggie Gau, there is no mention of the nightmarish delays.

Such disconnection from workforce crises is nothing new for Evers. The “absentee governor,” as state Rep. Shae Sortwell has described him, had very little contact with his disgraced Department of Workforce Development secretary during the state’s unemployment payment fiasco.

State Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk), who chairs the Senate’s Licensing Committee told Empower Wisconsin  last month that Evers has run out of excuses for his dysfunctional Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

“It’s an ongoing failure,” she said. “(Evers) doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he brings in people that don’t know what they’re doing.”

Stafsholt could not be reached for comment Monday.

Sortwell said he’s come to the conclusion that Team Evers simply doesn’t care about the hurt they’re causing Wisconsinites.

“It’s a Marie Antoinette, ‘Let them eat cake’ moment,” the lawmaker said. “I can’t come up with any other rationalization other than they are completely ignoring it.”

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