Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/15/1996 01:30 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.