State Watch

Wisconsin lawmaker refuses to cut hair until sign-language bill passes

A Wisconsin state lawmaker is refusing to cut his hair until a measure addressing the shortage of skilled sign language interpreters for the deaf community is passed. 

State Assembly Rep. Jonathan Brostoff has not gotten a haircut in a year as the Democratic lawmaker works to get the bill passed, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Tuesday.

Brostoff learned sign language while he was interning for former Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and became friends with two other interns who are deaf.

He co-authored a bill after his 2014 election to the state legislature to help make high-quality sign language interpreters more accessible and crack down on interpreters practicing illegally. The bill would also protect deaf citizens who needs sign language services in medical and legal settings, the newspaper noted. 

The bill never made it out committee, and Brostoff, who normally wore his hair very short, made a pledge to the deaf communities that it would be reintroduced and passed in the state legislature.

"I said, 'look, I'm not cutting my hair until we get this done.' Every time you see me, it's a visual indicator that we're going to keep working on this," Brostoff said. "And for myself, it's a daily reminder that I'm not going to forget this."

His wife, Diana Vang-Brostoff, told the newspaper that her husband used to shave his head every month but said she finds his long, curly locks "cute."

"I really want him to put it in a ponytail, but he won't do that," she said.

Former Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R), who worked on the bill, said he didn't want the hair to distract from the seriousness of the bill.

"It's a commitment, is what it is. That hair is a commitment for him," Kleefisch said. "I think he's channeling the spirit of Bob Ross."

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