Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/04/2004 03:30 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SB 309-BLOOD PATHOGENS TESTING OF PRISONERS                                                                       
CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced SB 309 to be up for consideration                                                                  
and asked Kurt Olson to introduce the bill.                                                                                     
KURT OLSON, staff to Senator Thomas Wagoner, bill sponsor,                                                                      
introduced himself and read the following into the record:                                                                      
     Currently  our state  allows testing  of prisoners  for                                                                    
     bloodborne pathogens  at the  request of  rape victims.                                                                    
     This bill  would allow  correctional officers  who have                                                                    
     been  exposed  to  blood and  other  bodily  fluids  to                                                                    
     request  testing  of  a prisoner  responsible  for  the                                                                    
         AS 18.15 would be amended to include five new                                                                          
        · AS 18.50.400 addresses the process of the testing                                                                     
        · AS 18.15.410 provides consent provisions                                                                              
        · AS 18.15.420 addresses testing without consent                                                                        
        · AS 18.15.440 addresses confidentiality issues and                                                                     
          provides penalty for disclosure                                                                                       
        · AS 18.15.450 defines the new terms included in                                                                        
          this section                                                                                                          
     Last year 41  protection officers were potentially                                                                         
     exposed to bloodborne  pathogens in the workplace.                                                                         
     In most cases the  exposure was intentional and is                                                                         
     one  of  the  few  weapons  readily  available  to                                                                         
     inmates.  Current treatment  to unknown  pathogens                                                                         
     consists of a daily treatment  of what is known in                                                                         
     the  correctional  industry  as  the  cocktails  -                                                                         
     large dose of  several broad-spectrum medications.                                                                         
     The side effects can  include nausea, missing work                                                                         
     for up to two weeks,  and additionally it disrupts                                                                         
     their home life.                                                                                                           
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked if the corrections officers had to                                                                     
undergo treatment in all 41 instances.                                                                                          
MR. OLSON replied some officers opted not to undergo                                                                            
SENATOR JOHN COWDERY noted the fiscal note is zero and he                                                                       
wondered who would pay for the testing.                                                                                         
MR. OLSON  said the  correctional officers are  tested under                                                                    
workers' compensation  and under  state law the  state can't                                                                    
test inmates without their consent.                                                                                             
SENATOR COWDERY  clarified that his  point is that  there is                                                                    
cost associated with the test.                                                                                                  
MR.  OLSON replied  there is  a cost  for the  test, but  he                                                                    
thought  there  would be  an  offset  as well.  Commissioner                                                                    
Antrim could probably answer more definitively, he said.                                                                        
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  asked what the procedure  would be under                                                                    
SB 309 when a prisoner refuses to provide a blood sample.                                                                       
MR. OLSON replied  there would be two  choices. The prisoner                                                                    
could be asked  to submit a blood sample  voluntarily and if                                                                    
they  refuse,   a  court  order  is   obtained  and  medical                                                                    
personnel would take the sample.  He added, "I believe there                                                                    
are  OSHA  guidelines  on taking  that.  The  federal  penal                                                                    
system  has  coverage  similar to  this  for  their  federal                                                                    
correctional officers."                                                                                                         
SENATOR   BERT  STEDMAN   admitted  he   didn't  have   much                                                                    
background in  this area, but  he assumes it would  cost the                                                                    
state  money if  an  inmate  refuses to  give  a sample  for                                                                    
testing. He then added that he believes it's a good bill.                                                                       
COMMISSIONER   MARC  ANTRIM,   Department  of   Corrections,                                                                    
reported  that the  department supports  SB 309  and thanked                                                                    
the sponsors for  recognizing the hazards that  face the men                                                                    
and women that serve in  the correctional facilities. One of                                                                    
the hazards certainly is bloodborne pathogens.                                                                                  
Although there  is a  process for  obtaining a  blood sample                                                                    
from an inmate,  SB 309 establishes a clear  series of steps                                                                    
to  follow and  will  ensure that  the  process is  followed                                                                    
every time  and won't depend  on whether or not  the parties                                                                    
involved are familiar with the procedure.                                                                                       
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked if  the corrections  officer would                                                                    
have a choice regarding their  own treatment and whether the                                                                    
inmate is tested.                                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER ANTRIM  replied the  affected officer  may seek                                                                    
information  regarding the  prisoner's  medical records  and                                                                    
ask  that the  inmate  be tested,  but  the officer  decides                                                                    
whether or not to undergo personal treatment.                                                                                   
RICHARD BEELER,  correctional officer at  Wildwood Pretrial,                                                                    
testified via teleconference in  support of the legislation.                                                                    
He  said   he  was  exposed  to   bloodborne  pathogens  and                                                                    
underwent  treatment twice,  which  was  very expensive  and                                                                    
harsh on his  system. He and his family  were traumatized by                                                                    
the experience.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS  asked for  verification  that  he  had                                                                    
little choice but to undergo treatment.                                                                                         
MR. BEELER  replied, "If I would  have had a test  come back                                                                    
saying that  there wasn't  a high  percentage of  me getting                                                                    
it, I  would not have  taken the  medications. It was  not a                                                                    
fun deal."                                                                                                                      
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  noted that  no  one else  signed up  to                                                                    
testify. He recognized Senator Cowdery.                                                                                         
SENATOR COWDERY made a motion  to move SB 309 from committee                                                                    
with the attached  zero fiscal note and  asked for unanimous                                                                    
consent. There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                           

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