From the President’s Desk, by David Allen
In February, an email went out to the WAA membership discussing our legislative fundraising efforts at the WAA Winter Conference, our renewed one-year contract with our lobbyist Shawn Pfaff, and our weekly conference call with him and members of the legislative committee to plot a plan for 2019. It mentioned that our goal of partnering with Shawn was to allow him to be our eyes and ears at the Capitol in Madison and to have him stay on top of anything legislative that could possibly affect our membership/the auction industry here in Wisconsin. In addition, since our professional licensing was not removed/deregulated in December of 2018 when the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) reviewed all licensed professions, we really wanted to take the opportunity to update and strengthen auction law here in our state. I joined Shawn as a registered lobbyist due to the regulations surrounding my ability/allowed frequency to meet with representatives outside of my district and with different departments of our state government.
Since the beginning of the year, Shawn and I have worked to build bilateral and bicameral support to “modernize auction law” and include online auctions, online auctioneers and online auction companies in our state’s auction license law. We created talking points on how updating auction license law would increase professionalism in our industry, increase consumer protection, and expressed the need for greater enforcement of our auction laws.
Most of the senators and representatives we talked to in February seemed to understand these talking points. Representative Horlacher, Chair of the Assembly Licensing Committee, however, believed more in government deregulation than in any type of laws or regulations that might restrict free trade and commerce. When we discussed updating auction law to include the online auction world, he basically said in order to move forward with any type of legislation, he’d like to hear how unlicensed online auctioneers/online auction companies have wronged sellers or have been given an advantage over those of us who are licensed. Basically, he was looking for online auction horror stories or how online auctioneers/online auction companies have been able to get business that we can’t. He also expressed that the total number of auctioneers in this state was not that big of a demographic. We did mention while that might be true, we touched a broad part of the state’s economy with auction sales of automobiles, livestock, commercial assets, personal property, and real estate.
In March, we met with the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the DSPS, Dan Hereth. It took a while for him to understand that we were trying to “level the playing field” between licensed and unlicensed auctioneers who conduct online auctions. The analogy he came up with that allowed him to connect the dots was that these individuals/companies were like “unlicensed plumbers” doing work that should be done by a licensed professional. We said we agreed. We had hoped to get some information regarding how many complaints were filed regarding online auction issues and what they consisted of but since these individuals/companies were unlicensed, and not required to be at this particular point in time with our current auction license law, that any complaints that came in on them were typically closed in short order as the DSPS and Auctioneer Advisory Board had no jurisdiction over these individuals/companies.
So where do we stand today? By the time this magazine comes out, we will have had our WAA Day on the Hill on Thursday, April 18th in Madison. Our goal for those in attendance that day was the building and/or strengthening of relationships with local legislators while hinting at the possibility of the WAA introducing some legislation in fall to modernize current auction license law. Since the budget is obviously going to dominate the political landscape here in Wisconsin for the first part of the year, we figured at this point it was not in our best interest to try and introduce any type of legislation when their attention was focused on fiscal matters.
Going forward we want to meet with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to see if they have heard and documented any type of issues with unlicensed online auction auctioneers/companies. We hope the DSPS might be able to start tracking these issues more closely as well. We also want to talk to the WAA membership to get a better sense of how they feel regarding this issue. We plan to hold a summer event where several hours will be devoted to an open discussion regarding current auction license law here in Wisconsin. As we have talked to more and more members, it has become apparent that auction license law means different things to different people. Some no longer think we need auction license law. Others are all for updating auction license law to include the online world as long as enforcement is present and those not following the law are disciplined. Some worry about their ability to sell real estate if the law goes away…while others have expressed the need for keeping license law because it did away with the practice of individual municipalities regulating auctions by charging auctioneers whatever they felt like to conduct an auction. Others appreciate the reciprocity Wisconsin auction license law allows them to have with other states in terms of getting a license and don’t want to see that component jeopardized.
The can of worms has been opened. The legislative committee needs your input regarding how you feel about Wisconsin’s current auction license law and how it should relate to online auctions, online auctioneers and online auction companies. If you can’t make this summer’s WAA event (more details on the event should be in this magazine), please don’t hesitate to call or email and let your opinion(s) be heard. Your voice is needed to help shape the direction the WAA takes this fall and in the years ahead.