Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/16/2003 01:35 PM Senate HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 179-TEACHER CERTIFICATION: FINGERPRINTS CHAIR FRED DYSON announced SB 179 to be up for consideration. MR. ZACH WARWICK, staff to Senator Therriault, said a constituent who is a teacher brought the idea behind SB 179 to Senator Therriault's attention. This teacher left Alaska for many years and came back and had to renew her license. She was required to submit fingerprints as part of the process. Teaching and nursing are two of the leading professions for which fingerprints get worn out to the point of being unreadable. As a result, this teacher, who is currently teaching, has been resubmitting her fingerprints for the past couple of years. The state has to keep reprocessing the prints and give her conditional certificates every three months. The Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) did some research and found that 42 people have had to resubmit three sets of fingerprints in nine months. This bill adds language that says if a person cannot submit legible fingerprint cards due to a permanent disability that precludes the person's ability to submit fingerprints. A number of people in the state without fingers or hands are attempting to teach. MR. WARWICK said that the DEED feels that the language on lines 5 to 7, starting with "whenever" and ending with "teacher" should be deleted, because that paragraph does not refer to fingerprints in reference to a teaching certificate. Another concern expressed by the person who does the hiring in the Palmer school district said that the district never gets fingerprint checks back within three months and suggested changing to a five-month period. The Governor's Office also said that it has some issues with fingerprints. Supposedly, the state is not in compliance with federal law regarding fingerprint background checks. He said the Governor's Office did not have time to prepare a committee substitute before the meeting today. CHAIR DYSON asked Mr. Warwick if Senator Therriault would agree to conceptual amendments and if it is important to get this legislation enacted this session. MR. WARWICK indicated the conceptual amendments would be up to the chairman, but if this legislation passes this year, the teachers would not have to go through the application process again. The Department of Administration (DOA) has asked for an extension until July 2004 to bring the fingerprint background checks into compliance, but if that request is turned down, DOA might not get federal help to do the background checks. SENATOR GARY WILKEN said he had two and a half pages of conceptual amendments for the committee to look at. MS. MELINDA PRUSAK said she tried to renew her teaching credential in December 2002 and her fingerprints were rejected. She reprinted two more times in Fairbanks and then had a public safety officer in Anchorage do the printing. She then tried going to the FBI and others, but her fingerprints are unreadable. MS. ANNIE CARPENETI, Criminal Division, Department of Law, said that several areas of state law require a background check for a person to get a license, generally people who work with children and vulnerable adults. The FBI requires states to have certain statutory provisions to participate in its national repository. A review of the statute in 2001 identified a number of inadequacies, but without an extension of the July 1 deadline, the state will be unable to get national background checks for people like teachers. She noted that Senator Wilken's amendment took care of her concerns and had been approved by the FBI. SENATOR WILKEN moved to adopt Amendment 1. There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR WILKEN moved to adopt conceptual Amendment 2, which would change three months to five months. There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR WILKEN moved to delete language on page 1, line 5, to the word "teacher" in line 7. There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR WILKEN moved to pass CSSB 179(HES) from committee with individual recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered. MR. KEVIN SWEENEY, Department of Education and Early Development, said the department had some problems with the bill, but it would work them out with the sponsor. MS. DIANE SCHENKER, Department of Public Safety, supported the CS.