Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/17/2003 11:45 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 201-HOME & RESPITE CARE: CRIMINAL RECORDS BRIAN HOVE, aide to Senator Ralph Seekins, explained the Revisor of Statutes requested the bill, which corrects errors in chapters 45 and 118, SLA 1994. SENATOR FRED DYSON asked if there had been any testimony against the bill. CHAIR GARY STEVENS advised there were several people that wanted to testify on the issue. He asked Jerry Luckhaupt whether he had any comments. JERRY LUCKAUPT, Legislative Legal Services Council, further explained that two bills were adopted in the same year. One was a comprehensive rewrite of the criminal history record statutes and the other related to home care and respite care agencies and requiring criminal history records checks. Because of the first bill, the statute that guided the process required by the second bill was no longer there and there was no other obvious statute that could be referred to. The Revisor pointed this out to the Judiciary Committee then handed it along to him as the person that handles criminal law and related matters. As the least controversial resolution, he cited a federal law that requires these checks regardless of state law. The referenced federal law provides that respite care and home care agencies and nursing facilities can all request criminal history record checks for employees and prospective employees. Hopefully, Health and Social Services will look at the statutes and decide whether they want certain convictions to disqualify individuals from potential employment. Federal law doesn't specifically require disqualification for certain jobs. It requires the employer to get the records and make a determination to hire or fire an individual. MARY NICHOLSON asked: · If the bill would include consumer direct based aid or just for facility based home care · If this would cover just local background criminal history checks or would it include finger printing and FBI background checks · Would the bill allow any of the home care providers to be grand fathered in MR. LUCKHAUPT advised the bill applies to anyone that is required to be licensed by the department in these areas. Agencies that go into the home are required to be licensed and if they receive state money they must do the checks. The checks have been a state requirement since 1994 and a federal requirement since 1998. It isn't just a local name based check of the Alaska system. It is a national fingerprint check through the FBI and is required under federal law. He stressed this is not a new requirement. He further explained that in 1994 two laws were passed, one repealing the statute and the other citing to it. Since then federal law has established a new requirement for an FBI fingerprint based check for all, not just new, home health care employees and prospective employees. Because the Department of Health and Social Services has not come forward to remedy the problem, Legislative Legal took the remedial course of citing federal law as the least controversial solution. SENATOR DYSON asked whether similar action is needed for childcare facilities. MR. LUCKHAUPT advised this federal law refers to home health care workers and nursing facilities only. SIDE B 12:35 pm Respite care for children is covered, but foster parents and similar situations aren't covered under this federal law. SENATOR DYSON asked if this kind of check is required for childcare and foster parents. MR. LUCKHAUPT stated there is a separate law dealing with fingerprint based background checks for foster parents and others that deal with children. SENATOR DYSON said some childcare providers are concerned that they can't get access to juvenile records for individuals they are employing that are just past the age of majority. Areas of sexual misconduct are of particular concern. He asked if it would be possible to have a state statute that would allow access to some juvenile criminal records. MR. LUCKHAUPT said there's always a problem with federal law with certain people that receive certain federal aid through the Social Security Administration. Some of those records have a requirement for a certain level of confidentiality, but they could open juvenile records if they elected to do so and they have in certain cases. SENATOR DYSON said he realizes that was off topic for HB 201, but he appreciated the information. SENATOR COWDERY made a motion to move HB 201 and attached fiscal note from committee with individual recommendations. He asked for unanimous consent. There being no objection, it was so ordered.