Stafsholt: Evers troubled licensing agency uncooperative

Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 16, 2022

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — The Legislature’s Study Committee on Occupational Licenses wrapped up its final hearing this week with recommendations for several reforms to be taken up in the next session.

Sen. Rob Stafsholt, who chaired the committee, said the panel worked diligently in a bipartisan manner, but got little assistance from the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) — Gov. Tony Evers’ incompetent credentialing agency behind Wisconsin’s professional license crisis. Untold numbers of applicants have had to wait for months  — some a year or more — for their professional credentials. Empower Wisconsin has tracked dozens of horror stories from individuals, trade groups and lawmakers that have tried to get DSPS to act. 

As Stafsholt noted, the committee was tasked with finding long-term solutions to fix the problems plaguing the department. The committee intended to work with the department in order to provide relief, he said.

“It was a struggle for both Legislators as well as the public members of the committee to get any of the information that was requested from DSPS,” the New Richmond Republican said in a statement.

“The lack of participation and attention that the department has shown towards the committee during this process is alarming and disappointing. The department chose to spend their time sending misleading emails about the study committee to license holders, rather than providing us with the information we requested. Their lack of action is completely unacceptable.”

Committee members have said that it took more than two months for DSPS officials to respond to four basic questions, while the agency quickly sent out emails “falsely claiming the committee is considering” eliminating a license for design engineers. Stafsholt said DSPS shouldn’t be spending its time lobbying professional groups, particularly when so many license holders across the state are waiting for their applications to be processed.

DSPS is seeking more than 70 positions to deal with the licensure gridlock. But agency officials haven’t provided analytics and other supporting information for the positions, committee members say.

Legislative offices say they continue to receive complaints from constituents about the long delays in processing applications and renewals.

There has been a lot of frustration, with one committee member at last month’s meeting calling agency representatives’ responses “bull crap.” They heard testimony about an AODA counselor who has been waiting 13 months to get a license. DSPS officials blamed the delay on Wisconsin’s licenses not aligning with those in other states, but the applicant, who holds a master’s degree in substance abuse counseling, has found the process and the agency to be uncooperative.

Mike Tierney, DSPS legislative liaison, repeatedly has argued the department needs more money and more personnel. But the agency long delayed requesting $5 million the Joint Finance Committee set aside for system upgrades, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

DSPS officials also have acknowledged that a “majority” of staff continue to work remotely under Evers’ lax virtual state government workforce policies. And they admitted that, despite funding to transition to an electronic filing system, DSPS continues to work with a lot of paper files.

The committee was tasked to review the current occupational licensing system and prior recommendations made for licensure by the department. It was charged with deciding if it is necessary to implement systems of review for both new and current occupational credentials. Lastly, the committee was to review options to expand access to individuals from other states to receive reciprocal credentials to practice in Wisconsin.

“The study committee was created with the goal of finding solutions so current and future license holders can be licensed in a timely manner. We were tasked with finding common sense, bipartisan solutions to this very serious and real problem in Wisconsin,” Stafsholt said. “I truly think we have come up with several long-term solutions and I look forward to continuing that work in upcoming legislative session.”

The study committee voted in favor of recommending the following bill drafts:

LRB-0363/P5, relating to investigations of conviction records by DSPS for purposes of determining eligibility for credentials.

LRB-0364/P3, relating to renewals of certain credentials.

LRB-0365/P3, relating to biennial report on various metrics related to the issuance of occupational credentials.

LRB-0401/P3, relating to practice of certain professions by credential holders from other states.

LRB-0450/P3, relating to renewal dates and continuing education requirements for certain credentials issued by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) and credentialing boards.

LRB-0462/P3, relating to requiring DSPS to post certain credential information its website.

LRB-0467/P3, relating to publication of credential metrics.

LRB-0837/P1, relating to ratification of the counseling compact.

LRB-0838/P1, relating to ratification of the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact.

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2 responses to “Stafsholt: Evers troubled licensing agency uncooperative”

  1. John Avatar

    What is taking so long? I work with people in MN that have been waiting for over a year to get their license.

    1. Lynne Avatar

      Hi John,
      As a registered nurse, I have worked with many departments at the State level. There are many good people who work there. But, there are also many people who do the bare minimum when working for the State. Working from home for State employees is not productive. They can never be fired so the same deadbeats hang out at home doing minimal work and the folks who work for private entities are always more productive because they are accountable to the bottom line.
      In addition, the State requires too many professions to be licensed. Working with governmental agencies is frustrating. Too much bureaucracy. Glad I am no longer working as a nurse. We spend most of our time shoveling information to the State instead of caring for patients. Couldn’t take it any longer.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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