Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/07/2004 06:40 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 179 - CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS/TEACHERS [Contains adoption of what would become known as HCR 42 for the purpose of changing the title of SB 179.] Number 0950 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the next order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 179(FIN), "An Act relating to criminal history records and background checks; allowing persons to teach in the public schools for up to five months without a teaching certificate if the person has applied for a certificate and the application has not been acted upon by the Department of Education and Early Development due to a delay in receiving criminal history records; allowing teacher certification for certain persons based on a criminal history background check without fingerprints; and providing for an effective date." CHAIR McGUIRE noted that the bill has already been heard in committee and was being held over for the purpose of investigating some issues that had been raised during the bill's last hearing. Number 0988 ZACH WARWICK, Staff to Senator Gene Therriault, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, on behalf of Senator Therriault, in response to a comment, said that rather than simply altering statute such that a person who has made an application for a teaching certificate can teach five months without a certificate, the bill was changed so that the statute would maintain the original three-month period and provide for a possible 60-day extension. This change came at the suggestion of the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED). The way the bill is currently written, if there is a delay in getting back the results of a criminal history background check within three months, the DEED may consider granting the aforementioned extension. He mentioned that the DEED has indicated to him that this extension would only be granted in extreme circumstances. MR. WARWICK said that without this provision, what is currently happening is that once the three-month period has elapsed, either teachers are laid off and rehired as substitute teachers, which requires no background check, or they must resubmit their application and be granted another three-month period in which to teach without a certificate. He acknowledged members' concerns expressed at the bill's last hearing that perhaps the law should be changed so that no one may teach until the results of the criminal history background check are received. He indicated that [the sponsor] is willing to research that possibility during the interim. CHAIR McGUIRE said she is not yet convinced that the timeframe in which the results of criminal history background checks are returned has been shortened to six or seven weeks as was testified to at the bill's last hearing. She relayed that according to her understanding of discussions she's had with the DEED, because of liability issues it is very unlikely that the DEED would ever grant the 60-day extension. In light of this, she said, she doesn't see any reason to put language in a bill that gives the DEED discretion that won't be utilized, adding that she would rather see folks work during the interim to see, first of all, what the problem is, and second, how to fix it. She remarked that electronic fingerprint scanners might be a worthwhile investment in the future, but relayed that at this point, she is not comfortable including the 60-day extension in the bill. MR. WARWICK remarked that it is not yet known whether electronic fingerprint scanners have approval from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) such that they could fulfill the DEED's requirements. He reiterated his belief that Section 8 will be of assistance in situations where the results of a criminal history background check are delayed simply because of a work backlog. REPRESENTATIVE HOLM indicated that his main concern is the safety of the children, and thus allowing someone to be in the classroom before the results of a criminal history background check are known doesn't satisfy his concern. MR. WARWICK ventured that Section 8 would ensure that someone who's results are delayed by just a few days wouldn't simply be allowed in the classroom as a substitute teacher. Number 1354 REPRESENTATIVE GARA made a motion to adopt Amendment 1, to delete the proposed new language in Section 8 - the language beginning on page 5, line 1, through page 5, line 7. There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. CHAIR McGUIRE pondered whether a title amendment would be necessary. MR. WARWICK [suggested adopting] a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) for that purpose. Number 1479 CHAIR MCGUIRE moved to report CSSB 179(FIN), as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HCS CSSB 179(JUD) was reported from House Judiciary Standing Committee. Number 1488 REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS [although no motion had been made to adopt the following as a work draft] moved to report the proposed House Concurrent Resolution (HCR), Version 23-LS1942\A, Luckhaupt, 4/16/04, out of committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, the House Concurrent Resolution [which later became HCR 42] was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.