Assembly passes package of GOP bills aiming to streamline professional licensing

The Assembly today passed a package of seven bills Republicans said will streamline professional licensing processes, while Dems argued DSPS needs more staff to do its job. 

The bills include measures requiring the Department of Safety and Professional Services to report information about how many applications it has received and processed and how long the agency takes to respond to them. 

Other bills would expand license renewal periods for health care and business professions and clarify the definition of a credential renewal date under state law.

Rep. Shae Sortwell blasted Dems on the floor today for voting against measures the study committee had approved, which he said would help people who are seeking licenses get jobs. 

“This isn’t anti-DSPS, this is empowering DSPS,” the Two Rivers Republican said. 

Rep. Katrina Shankland criticized Sortwell’s comments, saying it was “unbecoming” of someone who had led a task force and said Sortwell had excluded certain groups from participating. She charged him with threatening to cut funding for the agency. 

“I never want to see a funding threat on the Assembly floor again, it’s not okay,” the Stevens Point Dem said. 

Rep. Supreme Moore Omokunde, D-Milwaukee, who also served on the study committee, said the agency needs more staff and resources. 

“We want the Department of Safety and Professional Services to do all this work on top of the work they’re already doing, we want them to do more,” the Milwaukee Dem said. 

Then when he asks for more staff for the agency, Moore Omokunde said, Republicans say no. 

AB 200, approved 63-33, requires DSPS to include additional information about the credentialing process on its biennial report to the Legislature, such as the number of license applications received and licenses issued, and details about how long it takes for the agency to respond to an application. Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, was the only Dem to join Republicans in support of the measure. 

AB 201, approved 63-33 with Billings again as the only Dem in favor, requires DSPS to post information about licensing on its website each month, including the amount of time it took to determine whether to grant a credential and the number of applications submitted over the previous month.

The body passed 83-13 with bipartisan support AB 203, which would clarify the renewal date for a credential is the date that a credential expires and a credential holder must submit a renewal application before that date to ensure they retain the credential.

The Assembly also passed along party lines: 

*AB 202, which would enable DSPS to complete an investigation into whether a conviction affects someone’s ability to be granted a particular license without looking into certain violations, including for a minor, nonviolent offense.

*AB 204, which would change the renewal period for health and business professions from two years to four years. DSPS would be allowed to phase in the four-year renewal periods and stagger renewal dates so half of renewals in a profession occur every two years, but would have to do so through the rulemaking process. 

The Assembly also approved an amendment with a number of changes, including to allow continuing education requirements that do not have a specific required number of hours to still be required on a two-year basis. 

*AB 205, which would allow people in business professions to be granted temporary credentials if they are in good standing in another state, pending a permanent credential application. There is now a similar process for health care providers. The bill also adds additional health care professions eligible for temporary credentials, including dental hygienists and naturopathic doctors.

The Assembly approved an amendment clarifying which credentials the bill wouldn’t apply to, including credentials that “authorize a credential holder to engage in the limited practice of the law or in the practice of professional land surveying.” 

*AB 206 would require DSPS to determine whether each health care provider credential qualifies for a reciprocal credential under state law. A reciprocal credential is issued to someone who already has a similar credential in another jurisdiction.