Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/15/1996 01:30 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
         SB 296 NURSING HOME & ASSTD LIVING EMPLOYEES                         
                                                                              
 SENATOR ELLIS, sponsor of SB 296, noted the proposed committee                
 substitute is a modification of his original idea to require                  
 greater accountability of the employees who work with vulnerable              
 adults in Alaska.  The bill requires criminal background checks and           
 fingerprint checks of individuals who will be providing direct care           
 to vulnerable adults.  The committee substitute addresses a number            
 of concerns expressed by the state agencies involved regarding                
 public employee contracts, provisional hires, and private sector              
 facilities.  It proposes that this be a prospective requirement at            
 the negotiation of the next collective bargaining agreement and               
 gives to the DHSS the discretion to determine the kinds of job                
 classifications this requirement would apply to.  The committee               
 substitute also allows provisional hire so that people can be hired           
 before the criminal background check is completed but can be fired            
 if the check revealed a prior conviction.  There is also a proposal           
 to adopt in statute the regulations of the Division of Senior                 
 Services that relate to background checks.                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER asked why this bill would not apply to current                 
 employees.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 543                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR ELLIS commented he would prefer that, but prior attempts to           
 have similar legislation take effect immediately were struck down             
 by the courts because of collective bargaining agreements.                    
                                                                               
 KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH, Assistant Attorney General, gave the following           
 example.   Prior legislation required airport safety officers to              
 become certified police officers because they used guns in their              
 employment.  At the time the legislation was enacted it was known             
 that several existing employees would not be able to meet                     
 provisional requirements within the two-year grandfather period.              
 Those people sued, and because they were able to adequately perform           
 their jobs without certification, the court ruled they could keep             
 their jobs.  In the case of people working with vulnerable adults,            
 if they have been performing their jobs satisfactorily, there will            
 not be just cause to fire them.                                               
                                                                               
 Number 573                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER asked if the bargaining unit covering these                    
 employees has been asked if its members would voluntarily comply.             
                                                                               
 SENATOR ELLIS answered the bargaining unit has not been approached            
 with that suggestion due to a lack of time.                                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER said he supports the bill but hopes this requirement           
 isn't used as a bargaining tool.                                              
                                                                               
 SENATOR ELLIS thought it would be embarrassing for a bargaining               
 unit to argue this issue at the table.                                        
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH commented the union supported the airport safety law           
 but could not ultimately control the litigation.                              
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-38, SIDE B                                                            
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH believed the state would use this opportunity to               
 examine job specifications for the relevant departments.  If a new            
 contract came forward and an employee wished to transfer, he/she              
 would most likely have to reapply for the new job.  Additionally,             
 if it was revealed that a current employee had lied on an                     
 application, that employee could be terminated.  Finally, the                 
 requirement would have to be accepted if it is a statutory change,            
 as long as employees are not fired without just cause.                        
                                                                               
 Number 573                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR GREEN asked how new hires would be affected.  MS.                     
 STRASBAUGH replied SB 296 could cover new hires if the                        
 specifications were changed, and it would cover new hires in the              
 private sector.                                                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR GREEN asked if the legislation would apply post haste to              
 someone in the private sector or someone not covered by a                     
 bargaining unit.  MS. STRASBAUGH stated it is designed to require             
 newly hired employees, private or public, to comply.  She believed            
 it would be easier to administer in the private sector because it             
 is less likely there are unions involved in those facilities.                 
                                                                               
 SENATOR MILLER moved to adopt CSSB 296 (version K).  There being no           
 objection, the motion carried.                                                
                                                                               
 CONNIE SIPE, Director of the Division of Senior Services, stated              
 the division is very supportive of this bill.  The division, by               
 regulation, uses similar requirements when hiring employees at                
 assisted living homes, but the fingerprinting requirement has never           
 been in state regulations for nursing homes.                                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR GREEN moved CSSB 296 (JUD) out of committee with individual           
 recommendations.  There being no objection, the motion carried.               

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