Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/08/2004 09:05 AM Senate FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 179(HES)                                                                                            
     "An  Act relating to  criminal history  records and  background                                                            
     checks; allowing persons  to teach in the public schools for up                                                            
     to five  months without  a teaching  certificate if the  person                                                            
     has applied for a  certificate and the application has not been                                                            
     acted   upon  by  the   Department  of   Education  and   Early                                                            
     Development;   allowing  teacher   certification  for   certain                                                            
     persons  based on a criminal  history background check  without                                                            
     fingerprints; and providing for an effective date."                                                                        
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken  stated this bill, sponsored by Senator  Therriault,                                                            
"amends  the State  law  to meet  the requirements  set  out by  the                                                            
United  States   Department  of  Justice   in  regards  to   federal                                                            
background checks  on Alaskans. Senate Bill 179 addresses  a concern                                                            
expressed  by teachers  whose fingerprints  are not  processed  in a                                                            
timely manner."  He noted a draft  of a committee substitute,  which                                                            
contains  changes  proposed  by the  Senate  Health,  Education  and                                                            
Social Services Committee.                                                                                                      
Co-Chair Green  moved for adoption  of CS SB 179, 23-LS0938\U,  as a                                                            
working document.                                                                                                               
Co-Chair Wilken objected for an explanation.                                                                                    
ZACH WARWICK, Staff to  Senator Therriault, testified that this bill                                                            
stared as a "tool"  to allow teachers an alternative  in the current                                                            
system of criminal history  background checks necessary to receive a                                                            
teaching certificate.  However, he reported that a  problem arose in                                                            
that a  number of  teachers were  required to  resubmit fingerprint                                                             
samples every  three months due to  illegible samples. He  explained                                                            
that the ridges on the  fingers of many teachers, and many nurses as                                                            
well,  tend to  wear down  after many  years of  handling paper.  He                                                            
stated the affected  teachers are usually those who  had retired and                                                            
were now returning to teaching.                                                                                                 
Mr. Warwick stated  that during FY 03 over 40 teachers  are affected                                                            
by an  inability to collect  legible fingerprints,  are required  to                                                            
resubmit their prints, thus resulting in an "endless process".                                                                  
Mr. Warwick  relayed that he was informed  by the Department  of Law                                                            
and the Department  of Public Safety that the State  was in jeopardy                                                            
of losing  its "ability  to perform federal"  background checks  for                                                            
professions  requiring  clearance. He  reminded that  the State  had                                                            
been granted  "broad based authority"  to perform background  checks                                                            
on  a  number  of  professions,   although  provisions   to  conduct                                                            
fingerprinting  were regulatory rather  than statutory. In  1997, he                                                            
stated that  the federal  government audited  the State's  practices                                                            
and directed the language to be contained in statutes.                                                                          
Mr.  Warwick told  of  a "laundry  list"  of  professions  requiring                                                            
criminal history background  checks that was developed by the Senate                                                            
Health Education  and Social Services  Committee, upon consultation                                                             
between the Department  of Law and the Department  of Public Safety.                                                            
He noted that changes to  the original version of the bill were made                                                            
conceptually   and  that   meanwhile,  Representative   Carl   Gatto                                                            
introduced separate  legislation to address delays  in processing of                                                            
criminal  history  background checks  for  some teachers.  He  noted                                                            
these  delays were  not due to  illegible fingerprints  or  criminal                                                            
histories, but rather because of a backlog in processing.                                                                       
Mr.  Warwick stated  that  the Senate  Health Education  and  Social                                                            
Services Committee  proposed extending  the application period  from                                                            
three to five  months; however, the  Division of Legal and  Research                                                            
Services advised  that such a change to this bill  would violate the                                                            
single  subject rule  pertaining  to  legislation.  In addition,  he                                                            
stated that  the Department of Education  and Early Development  had                                                            
concerns  that teachers  would submit  applications  later and  time                                                            
would not be allowed for processing delays.                                                                                     
Mr. Warwick  told of efforts  to address  these concerns. He  stated                                                            
that the committee  substitute retains  the three month application                                                             
period and grants the Department  of Education and Early Development                                                            
the ability  to issue  a 60-day  conditional  waiver to accommodate                                                             
processing  delays. He noted  these changes  comply with the  single                                                            
subject rule.                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Wilken  removed  his  objection  to the  adoption  of  the                                                            
committee substitute  and the committee substitute  was ADOPTED as a                                                            
working draft.                                                                                                                  
Co-Chair  Green  referenced  Section  7  on pages  3  and  4 of  the                                                            
committee  substitute, which  would add a  new article and  statute:                                                            
Article  1A.  National  Criminal   History  Record  Check.,  and  AS                                                            
12.62.400. National  criminal history record checks  for employment,                                                            
licensing, and  other noncriminal justice purposes.  She asked about                                                            
any questions  or  concerns regarding  criminal  history  background                                                            
checks for handgun ownership permits.                                                                                           
Mr.  Warwick  answered  that  no questions  or  concerns  have  been                                                            
expressed to the sponsor.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair Green clarified  this committee substitute would not change                                                            
the  current  system  relating   to  issuance  of  permits  for  the                                                            
ownership of handguns.                                                                                                          
Mr.  Warwick  understood  that  the  provisions  of  Section  7  are                                                            
currently authorized in regulations.                                                                                            
DAVID   SCHADE,   Department   of  Public   Safety   testified   via                                                            
teleconference from an  offnet location that he and other Department                                                            
staff were available to respond to questions.                                                                                   
PAULA  HARRISION, Director,  Human  Resources and  Labor  Relations,                                                            
Mat-Su School  District testified via teleconference  from an offnet                                                            
location  in support  of this committee  substitute  and efforts  to                                                            
"keep this  bill alive"  until the regulations  are made  statutory.                                                            
She offered to share experiences of the school district.                                                                        
JENNIFER  TAYLOR, testified  via teleconference  from Ketchikan  and                                                            
read her written testimony into the record as follows                                                                           
     I have been  certified as an Alaskan teacher  since 1981. Every                                                            
     subsequent   five  years  it  has  been  necessary   to  repeat                                                            
     fingerprint  processing  (rolling) numerous  times at the  only                                                            
     locally  available  agency, the  Craig Police  Department.  The                                                            
     ridges normally  required for finger print identification,  are                                                            
     not  well enough  defined  on  my fingers  to suit  the  Alaska                                                            
     Department  of Education  and Early  Development requirements.                                                             
     Home  remedies  such as  soaking my  hands in  lotion and  corn                                                            
     starch,  avoiding  all housework,  and splitting  of  firewood,                                                            
     merely leave  my home dirty and my children cold,  and still do                                                            
     not promote  better-defined prints. I had 8 finger  print cards                                                            
     rolled  for  me,  on  three  occasions,  by  the  Craig  Police                                                            
     Department  in the past seven  months. Chief See took  the time                                                            
     to  write  a  department  letter  to  the  Dept.  of  Education                                                            
     explaining   that  my  particular  fingerprints   would  likely                                                            
     consistently  be  illegible  because my  ridges  were not  well                                                            
     enough  defined.  He was  upset  with me  that  his letter  was                                                            
     essentially  ignored.  This  is  not  theoretically  a  medical                                                            
     condition, nor a disability,  though apparently it is permanent                                                            
     and has not been cured  by replacing our wood stove with a toyo                                                            
     My concern  is that the language  in Section 10 allows  for the                                                            
     inclusion  of public  safety  and police  officers trained  and                                                            
     familiar  with fingerprint processing (rolling)  as experts, in                                                            
     addition  to medical  doctors for the  purposes of determining                                                             
     that  cases  such  as  my  own,  where  prints  are  repeatedly                                                            
     illegible,  be included as "a  permanent skin condition".  Such                                                            
     is  especially  important  considering the  lack  of access  in                                                            
     rural Alaska  to other than public safety officers  as agencies                                                            
     to  obtain  prints.  My  Alaskan  teaching  certification  fees                                                            
     already  cost me  seven times  that of  my Washington  teaching                                                            
     certificate, and without  health insurance, I cannot afford the                                                            
     added  expense of  a medical  office visit  to explain my  non-                                                            
     medical skin "condition".                                                                                                  
     Thank you for your consideration                                                                                           
Co-Chair  Wilken referenced  Section 7 and  the list of professions                                                             
requiring criminal history  record checks and asked whether day care                                                            
providers are included.                                                                                                         
Mr.  Warwick  surmised   that  subparagraph  (5)  includes   daycare                                                            
providers. The language reads as follows.                                                                                       
                (5) a position involving supervisory or disciplinary                                                            
     power  over  a minor  or  dependent  adult for  which  criminal                                                            
     justice information  may be released under AS  12.62.160(b)(9);                                                            
KEVIN  SWEENEY, Legislative  Liaison,  Department  of Education  and                                                            
Early Development,  testified to the Department's  efforts to change                                                            
the  regulatory  provisions  to  statutory.  However,  he  requested                                                            
clarification of language in the committee substitute.                                                                          
Mr. Sweeney referenced  AS 14.20.020(j)(1) in Section  10 on page 6,                                                            
lines 10 and 11, which reads as follows                                                                                         
                (1) person cannot submit legible fingerprint cards                                                              
     due  to a  permanent  disability  that precludes  the  person's                                                            
     ability to submit fingerprints; or                                                                                         
Mr. Sweeney  asked the  sponsor's  intent as to  how the  Department                                                            
would verify  that a teacher's  fingerprints  could not be  read. He                                                            
noted  the Department  would be  unable to make  such verifications                                                             
"from afar".                                                                                                                    
Mr. Warwick  expressed intent  that the  official agency  conducting                                                            
fingerprinting  would verify whether  a person was unable  to submit                                                            
legible fingerprint cards due to a permanent disability.                                                                        
Mr. Sweeney  also clarified  that a person  with missing fingers  or                                                            
hands  could  be  determined  by  a  physician  to  be  a  permanent                                                            
Mr. Warwick agreed this  would be considered a permanent disability.                                                            
Mr. Sweeney  next referenced new language  inserted to AS  14.20.010                                                            
in  Section  8 on  page  5,  lines  1 through  7  of  the  committee                                                            
substitute, which reads as follows.                                                                                             
     A person who has made  application for a certificate under this                                                            
     section  may  teach for  an  additional  60 days  beyond  three                                                            
     months  without  a  certificate  if  the  department  grants  a                                                            
     written  extension.  An extension  may  be granted  under  this                                                            
     section for  not more than 60 days to the person  solely due to                                                            
     delay   in  the  department's   receipt  of  criminal   justice                                                            
     information  under  AS 12.62  or  a national  criminal  history                                                            
     record check under AS 12.62.400.                                                                                           
Mr. Sweeney requested clarification  that such an extension would be                                                            
granted  only  if the  delay  is the  result  of  a backlog  of  the                                                            
criminal history  record check process, rather than  failure for the                                                            
teacher  to submit fingerprints.  He shared  that many applications                                                             
are received "at  the last minute" of the current  90 day period and                                                            
do  not provide  adequate  time  for processing.  He  expressed  the                                                            
Department's  concern with  avoiding a situation  in which  a person                                                            
with  a  sexual deviant  criminal  history  is  dealing  with  young                                                            
Co-Chair Green offered  motion to report CS SB 179, 23-LS0938\U from                                                            
Committee with individual  recommendations and two new fiscal notes.                                                            
AT EASE 9:22 AM / 9:27 AM                                                                                                       
There was no objection  and CS SB 179 (FIN) REPORTED  from Committee                                                            
with two zero fiscal notes dated 3/8/04 from the Department of                                                                  
Public Safety, and the Department of Education and Early                                                                        

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