A proposal to regulate traveling sales crews operating in Wisconsin went before a legislative panel on Tuesday. The bill from State Senator John Erpenbach (D-Middleton) would create strict new regulations for the door-to-door sales industry. He says it would keep those companies from exploiting young people. Erpenbach cited several examples of student workers being promised high paying jobs, but ending up in horrible working conditions.

Industry officials say the bill unfairly targets legitimate operations. Dean Heyl, an attorney for the door-to-door sales company Southwestern , says it would have little impact on the crews that already ignore the law. He says those companies already avoid law enforcement when they illegally start selling in a given area. Heyl says the industry would like the bill amended to exempt companies who follow current laws.

During a legislative hearing on the bill Tuesday, lawmakers heard from Kristen Ray Spicer. She worked for a Southwestern crew in 2005 under the promise of earning a big paycheck. But at the end of the summer, she says she ended up owing the company $150 and walked away with nothing. She also says the company made her crew work over 80 hours a week, limited contact with her parents, and did very little after a co-worker allegedly raped her. Erpenbach says the bill would keep student workers like Spicer from being taken advantage of.

The legislation was inspired by a 1999 van crash near Janesville that killed seven members of a traveling magazine sales crew.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:48)

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