Bills of Note: Occupation Credential Fee Waivers

Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) have authored legislation (AB 733/SB 616) that would waive fees for initial occupation credentials for people whose incomes are beneath 180 percent of the federal poverty line. The bill also eliminates the provision in the veterans fee waiver program that says veterans may only receive one fee waiver under the program. The bill eliminates that provision for credentials issued under the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) or an examining board.

The Assembly Committee on Regulatory Licensing Reform and the Senate Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations have both held public hearings on the bill.

At the Senate and Assembly hearings, the bill’s authors testified, saying that the legislation would allow low-income individuals and veterans to obtain meaningful employment. The bill, they said, would help address Wisconsin’s worker shortage by helping individuals overcome the financial barriers of training, testing, and licensing. The authors’ testimony clarified that only the initial licensing fee is waived under the bill, so state revenue loss would be short-term. The authors also presented an amendment to allow DSPS to verify the income of fee waiver applicants.

Jared Meyer of Opportunity Solutions Project testified in support of the bill at both hearings. Meyer said licensed occupations are growing across the country and in Wisconsin, where there has been an 84 percent increase in the number of occupations licensed since 1996. According to Meyer, the state’s average required training for low- and medium-income occupations was seven months, and the average licensing fee was $250. This large financial burden prevents many low-income individuals from becoming licensed and obtaining stable, meaningful employment.

At the Assembly hearing, the Wisconsin VFW spoke in support of the bill, saying the fee waiver expansion for veterans would support veterans as they work to start a career, sometimes trying out different fields to find the right fit. Legal Action of Wisconsin also testified in support of the bill, emphasizing that even what may seem like a small expense for licensing creates an additional burden for low-income individuals.

Committee votes on the bill have not yet been scheduled.