Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/08/2004 08:07 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 309-BLOOD PATHOGENS TESTING OF PRISONERS                                                                                   
Number 2348                                                                                                                     
VICE-CHAIR HOLM announced that the  last order of business was CS                                                               
FOR SENATE BILL NO. 309(JUD) am,  "An Act relating to testing the                                                               
blood  of   prisoners  and  those   in  custody   for  bloodborne                                                               
TAPE 04-58, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2359                                                                                                                     
SENATOR TOM WAGONER, Alaska State  Legislature, as sponsor of HCR
26, stated  that, currently, the  State of Alaska allows  for the                                                               
testing of prisoners with bloodborne  pathogens at the request of                                                               
rape  victims  only.    The   proposed  legislation  would  allow                                                               
correctional officers  who have  been exposed  to blood  or other                                                               
bodily fluids to request testing  of the prisoner responsible for                                                               
the exposure.  He indicated  that [exposing correctional officers                                                               
to  infected blood  or other  bodily fluids]  is one  of the  few                                                               
weapons prisoners have  in the penal system  to retaliate against                                                               
the personnel who operate the prison.                                                                                           
SENATOR WAGONER noted  that AS 18.15 would be  amended to include                                                               
five  new sections:    AS 18.15.400,  which  would authorize  the                                                               
process of testing;  AS 18.15.410, which would  provide a consent                                                               
provision;  AS 18.15.420,  which  would  address testing  without                                                               
consent;  AS  18.15.440,   which  would  address  confidentiality                                                               
issues and  provide penalties for  disclosure; and  AS 18.15.450,                                                               
which would define "the new term in this section."                                                                              
SENATOR  WAGONER  revealed  that,   last  year,  41  correctional                                                               
officers were  potentially exposed  to bloodborne pathogens.   In                                                               
most of the  cases, exposure was intentional.   Current treatment                                                               
to exposure to unknown pathogens  consists of a daily "cocktail,"                                                               
which   includes   large   amounts  of   several   broad-spectrum                                                               
medications.  He explained that  the treatment, which can take up                                                               
to two weeks, can result in  lost time for each person taking the                                                               
treatment.   Additionally, the treatment costs  the state between                                                               
$2,000-$3,000 for each "application" for the two-week session.                                                                  
SENATOR  WAGONER   pointed  out  that  both   the  Department  of                                                               
Corrections and  the Division  of Risk  Management have  given SB
309 a  zero fiscal note.   Notwithstanding that,  Senator Wagoner                                                               
suggested  that  with  40  people  undergoing  the  treatment  at                                                               
$2,000-$3,000 per person and being off  work for up to two weeks,                                                               
SB 309  would save the state  money.  He explained  that, at this                                                               
time,  the amount  that would  be saved  is an  unknown quantity,                                                               
which is why the fiscal note doesn't reflect the savings.                                                                       
SENATOR WAGONER indicated that the  Department of Corrections had                                                               
requested some minor technical changes  to the bill, and he noted                                                               
that Commissioner  Marc Antrim is available  to answer questions.                                                               
The   phrase  "correctional   facility"  was   changed  to   "the                                                               
department"  throughout the  bill, and  the section  dealing with                                                               
"old blood" was removed.  He  explained that the preference is to                                                               
use new blood to test for bloodborne pathogens.                                                                                 
Number 2174                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG suggested  that  if a  prisoner who  is                                                               
infected bites a  guard, the guard's spouse  or significant other                                                               
may need to get the  information regarding the prisoner's health,                                                               
for medical purposes.  He noted  that there's no provision in the                                                               
confidentiality  section   of  the   bill  for   disclosure  when                                                               
medically necessary to protect "a third ... innocent person."                                                                   
Number 2114                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  WAGONER  surmised  that  if  a  guard  was  bitten,  for                                                               
example, he/she would not have  any intimate contact with his/her                                                               
spouse until a test result was complete.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG proffered  that  the guard  may not  be                                                               
totally  responsible as  a human  being, or  there may  have been                                                               
some sort of  "incidental saliva contact" with the  prisoner.  He                                                               
suggested one example may be  that the prisoner's saliva lands on                                                               
an  open  cut that  the  guard  has, and  the  guard  may not  be                                                               
instantly  aware of  that occurrence.    He said  he thinks  some                                                               
thought should be given to  allowing the information to be given,                                                               
if necessary, to protect a third person.                                                                                        
SENATOR  WAGONER  suggested  that   may  be  something  that  the                                                               
department could  pursue in the  next few days.   Notwithstanding                                                               
that, he  stated, "I don't  think we can child-proof  the world."                                                               
He added that  if the person who is infected  doesn't know it, he                                                               
doesn't  know how  the  third  party would  become  aware of  any                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG   responded  that   the   correctional                                                               
official  may independently  have  an [acquired  immunodeficiency                                                               
syndrome (AIDS)]  test done and find  out about it that  way.  He                                                               
pointed out that  if that person is not married,  he/she may have                                                               
had contact with several people.                                                                                                
SENATOR  WAGONER suggested  that  the  Department of  Corrections                                                               
could address that issue and formulate an amendment.                                                                            
Number 2002                                                                                                                     
VICE-CHAIR  HOLM  mentioned  "prisoners  that sit  next  door  to                                                               
another prisoner."   He asked if  they have a right  to know that                                                               
"this person over here has AIDS."                                                                                               
SENATOR  WAGONER replied  that  he thinks  that  would really  be                                                               
expanding the  scope of the  bill.  He  stated his intent  was to                                                               
protect the  guard and  the people who  work in  the institutions                                                               
because  they are  the ones  who are  directly involved  in "this                                                               
type of contamination."                                                                                                         
[Vice-Chair Holm returned the gavel to Chair Weyhrauch.]                                                                        
Number 1895                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH noted that the  correctional officer has to get a                                                               
physician to  say whether significant exposure  occurred, or not.                                                               
He  asked,   "Why  shouldn't  it   be  a  determination   of  the                                                               
correctional   officer  who   was  exposed,   rather  than   some                                                               
SENATOR WAGONER answered that he  thinks it's the physician's job                                                               
to make  a diagnosis and  determine if there was  enough exposure                                                               
to require treatment or blood  testing.  In response to questions                                                               
from Chair  Weyhrauch, he  explained that Section  1 in  the bill                                                               
not  only addresses  getting  a blood  sample  from the  infected                                                               
prisoner, but  also getting blood from  the correctional officer.                                                               
It  also   would  give  legal   authority  to   the  correctional                                                               
institution  to test  the prisoner  who exposed  the correctional                                                               
officer to the bloodborne pathogen.                                                                                             
Number 1758                                                                                                                     
PORTIA PARKER, Deputy Commissioner,  Office of the Commissioner -                                                               
Juneau,  Department  of  Corrections (DOC),  told  the  committee                                                               
that,  currently,  a  lot  of  the procedures  in  place  are  in                                                               
compliance    with   the    Occupational   Safety    and   Health                                                               
Administration  (OSHA).    The proposed  legislation,  she  said,                                                               
"codifies and adds  a few more protections and  ... guidelines in                                                               
the statutes  ...."  She  stated that DOC  supports SB 309.   Ms.                                                               
Parker  said  the department  usually  doesn't  have any  problem                                                               
getting a  blood sample.   She outlined the steps  the department                                                               
would take, as proposed in SB  309, and highlighted that the bill                                                               
would facilitate obtaining  a blood sample through  a court order                                                               
when a prisoner does not give consent.                                                                                          
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  asked if getting  a court order would  mean that                                                               
the confidentiality provisions would no longer apply.                                                                           
MS. PARKER  said she  doesn't think that's  true.   She explained                                                               
that the name of the prisoner is not exposed.                                                                                   
Number 1652                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG noted  that there  is some  language in                                                               
the  bill  that  could  prohibit the  correctional  officer  from                                                               
telling his/her  spouse.   He said  he wants  to be  certain that                                                               
anyone who  may have  been secondarily  exposed also  be informed                                                               
and have access  to the information.  He also  expressed the need                                                               
to know how  this would relate to  juvenile correctional centers,                                                               
which  are under  the direction  of  the Department  of Health  &                                                               
Social  Services (HESS).   Representative  Gruenberg pointed  out                                                               
that  the  bill  specifies  a  physician,  rather  than  a  nurse                                                               
practitioner,  for   example.     He  questioned   whether  nurse                                                               
practitioners should also be included.                                                                                          
Number 1658                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  returned to  the question regarding  why a                                                               
third  party -  the  physician  - has  to  determine whether  the                                                               
exposure is significant enough.  He  asked if there has ever been                                                               
a  case in  which  a  physician has  said  the  exposure was  not                                                               
significant   enough,  thus   making   it   impossible  for   the                                                               
correctional officer to obtain results.                                                                                         
Number 1524                                                                                                                     
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
[During  the at-ease,  the visiting  high  school students  filed                                                               
into  the room.    When the  committee came  back  to order,  the                                                               
legislators introduced themselves.]                                                                                             
SENATOR WAGONER recapped the bill for the students.                                                                             
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH  explained that the House  State Affairs Standing                                                               
Committee has  jurisdiction over  the Department  of Corrections,                                                               
which is why the committee is hearing SB 309.                                                                                   
SENATOR WAGONER noted that there is  a zero fiscal note.  He said                                                               
the  next committee  of  referral would  be  the House  Judiciary                                                               
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             
CHAIR WEYHRAUCH,  for the benefit  of the students,  reviewed the                                                               
remaining course that the bill would take.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM defined what a fiscal note is.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  explained  the importance  and  reason                                                               
behind which  committee hears a bill.   He suggested that  SB 309                                                               
should  go to  the House  Health, Education  and Social  Services                                                               
Standing Committee, because it focuses on public health issues.                                                                 
SENATOR WAGONER said  he thinks the legal  ramifications are more                                                               
[SB 309 was heard and held.]                                                                                                    

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