State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The state Senate Tuesday approved Senate Bill 389 (SB 389) that I co-authored that relates to licensing of sign language interpreters.
SB 389 stipulates that no person may provide, for compensation, sign language interpretation services for a deaf or hard of hearing client unless the person holds a license granted by the Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL). Exemptions are made for the following: 1) a person interpreting in a court proceeding, if the person is certified by the Wisconsin Supreme Court; 2) a person interpreting at a school or school−sponsored event, if the person is certified by the Department of Public Instruction; 3) a person interpreting at a religious service or religious function; 4) a support service provider facilitating communication between an interpreter and an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing; and 5) a person interpreting in the course of employment during an emergency, for up to 24 hours.
A nine member Sign Language Interpreter Council is created that will advise DRL about the practice of sign language interpreters. The council may grant a temporary exemption from the licensure requirement, and must make recommendations to DRL regarding a code of ethics for interpreters. The bill requires DRL to promulgate rules establishing a code of ethics for interpreters and authorizes DRL to conduct disciplinary proceedings against interpreters.
Under SB 389, a licensed interpreter may not disclose any aspect of confidential communication facilitated by the interpreter, unless all parties to the communication consent and a court determines that disclosure is necessary for the proper administration of justice.
An amendment to SB 389 was offered that would have allowed interpreters trained by DPI to provide service in educational settings to also practice outside the classroom. On the floor of the state Senate, I spoke against the amendment, expressing concern that while DPI-trained educational interpreters do an outstanding job in our schools, there are serious ramifications in areas like courtrooms or medical communities if education-trained interpreters make miscommunications.
The amendment was defeated, 27-5 and SB 389, greatly supported by deaf and hard of hearing groups was approved by the state Senate. SB 389 now goes to the state Assembly for its consideration.