After the contentious budget fight and the name-calling, there were fears that conservative reforms would stall in the state Assembly. However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has scheduled the apprenticeship ratio reform bill for a vote on Thursday, again taking the lead on pushing a reform that will help Wisconsin’s economy.

This important bill, authored by state Sen. Chris Kapenga of Delafield and Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield, will help the state deal with the skills gap by creating more opportunities for people to get into the trades. The bill will reduce the apprenticeship-to-journeyman ratio to one to one across the board for trades.

Opponents of the bill claim that this will affect safety, but as Natalie Goodnow of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) wrote that’s a false concern.

Safety and quality should certainly be maintained in order to protect employees, employers, and consumers. The big question is if this bill crosses the threshold into insufficient supervision. Though the bill would lower the ratio of journeymen to apprentices, it wouldn’t give free rein to apprentice programs. Programs would not be able to suddenly have one journeyman to ten apprentices. Oversight from DWD would still be required to make sure safety standards are being followed.

The bill is likely to pass the Assembly (which also took the lead on the mining bill) and we’re told that Governor Scott Walker will sign the bill. However, the bill’s future in the state Senate is far from certain.

It would be ironic if this conservative reform stalled in the state Senate after so many other reforms were supported by Senate leadership. Each time Wisconsin’s Republicans have pushed through a reform affecting labor, from repeal of the prevailing wage law to Right to Work, special interests have claimed the sky is going to fall. Republicans in the Senate should not let short-sighted special interests deter them from passing this bill as well.

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