Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
02/17/2015 01:30 PM Senate LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 41-PSYCHOLOGIST & ASSOC CRIM HISTORY CHECKS 1:53:31 PM CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SB 41. "An Act relating to criminal history record checks for psychologists and psychological associates; and providing for an effective date." SENATOR CATHY GIESSEL, sponsor of SB 41, stated that this legislation provides the opportunity for the regulatory board for psychologists and psychological associates to perform criminal background checks. There have been no problems but this will help ensure that the professionals working in this area are reputable. 1:54:42 PM JANE CONWAY, Staff, Senator Cathy Giessel, provided the following sectional analysis for SB 41. Section 1 amends AS 08.86.070 by adding new subsections. AS 08.86.070(b) imposes a duty on the Board of Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners to require applicants for licensure as psychologists or psychological associates to submit fingerprints and fees necessary to obtain criminal justice information and a national criminal history record check. The Subsection authorizes the board to adopt regulations requiring applicants for renewal of a license to submit fingerprints and a fee as required in the subsection. AS 08.86.070(c) requires the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to submit the fingerprints and fees to the Department of Public Safety to obtain criminal justice information and a national criminal history check under AS 12.62. Section 2 adds licensure as a psychologist or psychological associate under AS 18.86 to the list of licensed professions for which the Department of Public Safety may process criminal history records checks. Section 3 makes it applicable to applications for license or renewal filed on or after the effective date of the act. Section 4 provides an effective date of July 1, 2015. 1:56:17 PM SENATOR STEVENS asked if the bill has any requirement other than a fingerprint. MS. CONWAY replied the fingerprint is required as part of the formal application process and it is submitted to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for a background check. Responding to a further question, she said the idea is to check for a criminal record. CHAIR COSTELLO asked why this hasn't been done before. MS. CONWAY replied a number of people have asked that because a number of other professions that deal with vulnerable populations are required to have criminal background checks. She suggested that Mr. Levy might provide an historical perspective. CHAIR COSTELLO asked Ms. Chambers to discuss the fiscal note. 1:58:18 PM SARA CHAMBERS, Acting Director, Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing, Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED), said the fiscal note reflects the current $51.50 cost of fingerprinting through DPS multiplied by the anticipated number of licensees going through the program the first and subsequent years. CHAIR COSTELLO clarified that there is no impact to the state because of receipt authority. The applicants will absorb the cost of the background check. MS. CHAMBERS agreed. Responding to a further question she clarified that the current $51.50 fee is subject to the regulatory fee change process. CHAIR COSTELLO asked if this will affect the division's ability to manage the overall fee structure for the professional licenses in the state. MS. CHAMBERS replied she sees no conflict or concern. 2:00:22 PM SENATOR GIESSEL asked if this board is in deficit or has funds that would cover any additional costs. MS. CHAMBERS said she didn't have the figures, but this board and the division work well together to ensure that revenues cover expenses. 2:01:00 PM ALAN LEVY, L.P.A., Chair, Board of Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners, stated that he is also employed as a therapist in private practice in Anchorage. In response to the question about why the board doesn't already have this authority, he explained that psychology as a licensed profession was created by the legislature in the 1960s when background checks were expensive and difficult to do. The checks were typically reserved for military and high governmental functions that required security clearance. He explained that for the past eight years the Psychology Board has been trying to get the authority to do background checks, but the Department of Law (DOL) opined the board doesn't have the authority to enact regulations to give itself this power. SB 41 would change the statutes and grant the board the authority. Background checks are considered best practice and an essential part of protecting the public. SENATOR STEVENS asked if licensure exams are required to become a psychologist. MR. LEVY explained that a bachelors, masters and Ph.D. are required and applicants must have graduated from an accredited institution and meet the criteria laid out in statute and regulation. The extensive application process includes a self- disclosure and the board would like the ability to double check that and look into criminal matters. He reported that the board is in good fiscal shape. It has had a budget surplus of over $300,000 for the last several years and has been working with Ms. Chambers to reduce that surplus while preserving a cushion. MR. LEVY informed the committee that 34 states and the District of Columbia require criminal background checks for psychologists but Alaska is one of the 17 states that doesn't have that requirement. He pointed out inconsistencies in Alaska's licensure requirements. Licensed family and marriage therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed psychologists are not required to have a criminal background check but the new licensed profession of behavior analysts are required to undergo criminal backgrounds checks. He suggested that at the very least it makes sense to hold psychologists to the same standard as behavior analysts. 2:08:13 PM DR. PHILLIP BAKER, Chair, Alaska Psychological Association, testified that he cannot endorse SB 41 until all licensed psychologists have reviewed the bill. The concern is that the language in the bill isn't specific and the limitations aren't clear as to what will be done with the information that is collected for the criminal investigation. The board does support licensing all psychologists and psychological associates and believes that the end of June would be a good time to add this requirement for new and renewal applicants. He offered to work to flesh the bill out so that everyone who has to submit to it is more comfortable. 2:12:27 PM SENATOR GIESSEL explained to Dr. Baker that the bill provides the authority for the board to write a regulation to require a criminal background check. DR. BAKER interjected that the language isn't clear. SENATOR GIESSEL explained that there are specific laws governing the way the background checks can be used. The FBI requires the background check to be held only by the psychology regulatory board. It cannot be used or shared with anyone else and must be kept in a locked facility. The details will be fleshed out later, not in statute. CHAIR COSTELLO noted that the bill has a judiciary referral. MR. LEVY clarified that he is not a doctor. 2:15:31 PM CHAIR COSTELLO closed public testimony. SENATOR STEVENS said he was comfortable moving the bill. 2:15:54 PM SENATOR STEVENS moved to report SB 41, labeled 29-LS0170\H, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). CHAIR COSTELLO announced that, without objection, SB 41 is reported from the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee.