Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/19/2001 03:07 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 180-BACKGROUND CHECK OF YOUTH WORKER                                                                                       
CHAIR DYSON  announced that the  next order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 180, "An  Act requiring child  services providers                                                               
to  obtain   criminal  background   checks  for   child  services                                                               
Number 0735                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  LESIL  McGUIRE,  Alaska State  Legislature,  came                                                               
forth as sponsor of HB 180.   She requested a motion to adopt the                                                               
committee  substitute  (CS),   version  22-LS0642\P,  Lauterbach,                                                               
4/9/01, as the working document.                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON asked  if there  was any  objection to  adopting the                                                               
proposed CS as  a work draft.  There being  no objection, Version                                                               
P was before the committee.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE stated  that HB  180 requires  background                                                               
checks  of volunteer  child  service  workers.   A  man from  her                                                               
district would  share his story  [with the committee].   Three of                                                               
his four children  have been victims of sexual  abuse while under                                                               
the  supervision of  volunteer  child workers.    This bill,  she                                                               
said,  is an  attempt at  trying to  minimize the  level of  risk                                                               
children are exposed  to when in the hands of  volunteers.  There                                                               
are many laws  in [Alaska] statutes that  regulate specific state                                                               
services  such  as  foster  care  homes;  however,  the  area  of                                                               
volunteers is  sort of  vague.   She stated  that there  are some                                                               
organizations  such  as  the  Boys   and  Girls  Club  that  have                                                               
recognized a need  for this and have taken it  upon themselves to                                                               
require  background  checks  of   their  volunteers.    The  cost                                                               
associated with that background check is  a $20 fee, which can be                                                               
paid by the volunteer or by the organization.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE noted that it  is mandated in the bill for                                                               
state background checks,  as opposed to federal, in  order to not                                                               
be too  punitive as far as  the cost.  There  are some exemptions                                                               
in  the  proposed CS  such  as  Sunday school  teachers;  nursery                                                               
volunteers  at a  church;  and a  parent,  guardian, or  relative                                                               
participating in  school-sponsored functions.   She said  this is                                                               
an attempt to try to  narrow any unintended consequences that the                                                               
bill might have.                                                                                                                
Number 0929                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  stated that  she has some  amendments she                                                               
would like  to offer.   The first amendment  would be on  page 1,                                                               
lines  11 and  12,  and  would delete  any  reference to  current                                                               
offender information.   This would make it so a   report can only                                                               
note  a  conviction involving  a  serious  offense.   The  second                                                               
amendment, on  page 2, line  27, would add "parent,  guardian, or                                                               
relative  of a  child".   It would  then read,  "while a  parent,                                                               
guardian,  or relative  of  the  child is  in  attendance at  the                                                               
religious service".                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE stated:                                                                                                  
     I think the goal of the  bill is very clear; we want to                                                                    
     try to  protect our  children in any  way that  we can.                                                                    
     ...  Statistics  show  that  where  there  has  been  a                                                                    
     conviction in the past of  sexual molestation, there is                                                                    
     a  higher  degree  of  risk.   We  cannot  protect  our                                                                    
     children 100  percent ... but  we can  as [legislators]                                                                    
     take steps to try to  minimize those risks.  This would                                                                    
     be  one  of  those  steps -  requiring  the  background                                                                    
     checks. ... There  are some due process  aspects to the                                                                    
     bill that  are important.   If you  notice, on  page 2,                                                                    
     [lines]  16 and  17, the  individual can  challenge the                                                                    
     accuracy and completeness of the report.                                                                                   
Number 1060                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS asked how  much a federal background check                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE answered that it costs $99.00.                                                                           
CHAIR  DYSON stated  that as  he reads  this, a  babysitter would                                                               
have to get a background check.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE  responded  that  she  has  been  trying,                                                               
through the use of amendments,  to minimize the vagueness [of the                                                               
bill], and  feels that the goal  is relatively clear.   She added                                                               
that she  is amenable to  any changes.   She stated that  this is                                                               
one  of those  difficult tasks  as a  lawmaker:   to recognize  a                                                               
problem and  then draft  a bill  to try  to address  the problem.                                                               
She said  she looked  at what  other states  are doing,  and this                                                               
bill is pretty much in line with the other states.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA  stated that  page  1,  line 6,  says  the                                                               
background check is required of a  child services provider.  If a                                                               
parent decides to  act as the hiring agent for  someone who comes                                                               
into his or her home, that's  different than putting a child in a                                                               
situation  in  which  [the  parents]  have  the  assurances  that                                                               
someone has taken the same effort [that the parents] would take.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE remarked that that was the intent.                                                                       
Number 1308                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS asked  Representative McGuire  to explain                                                               
who a volunteer child services provider would be.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  responded that the definition  section in                                                               
the bill  [on page 3],  states that "provider" means  a business,                                                               
organization, or entity that provides child services.                                                                           
CHAIR  DYSON added  that on  page 3,  line 2,  it states,  "child                                                               
service"  means   [the  case]  treatment,   education,  training,                                                               
[institution,]  supervision, [or]  recreation.   On page  3, line                                                               
11, "provider"  means a business,  organization or  other entity,                                                               
whether  public, private,  for profit,  nonprofit, or  voluntary,                                                               
that  provides child  services.   He  said he  thinks this  would                                                               
include Boy Scouts and "girls club."                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  asked if  that would, then,  also include                                                               
arts or Native organizations that have summer camps.                                                                            
CHAIR  DYSON answered  yes, and  that it  could also  include the                                                               
local neighborhood babysitting cooperative.                                                                                     
Number 1421                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA stated that  this definition is a business,                                                               
which is different from a cooperative.                                                                                          
CHAIR DYSON  disagreed and reiterated  the definition on  page 3,                                                               
line 11.                                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE stated  that  there is  a  concern and  a                                                               
debate on  this.  She  said since  a constituent of  hers brought                                                               
this [concern]  to her  attention and she  has drafted  the bill,                                                               
she has received over 150 concerns from parents.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he thinks  rather than mandating that                                                               
a  person cannot  be employed,  people need  to be  encouraged to                                                               
check up on whomever they use as volunteers.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  asked if  it would be  too specific  if it                                                               
were  to  say on  page  3,  line  2,  "child services  means  the                                                               
professional care".                                                                                                             
Number 1586                                                                                                                     
JACK BOWEN testified  via teleconference on behalf  of himself on                                                               
HB 180.  He stated:                                                                                                             
     Around  the  middle  of February,  the  first  part  of                                                                    
     March, I  sent out  an e-mail about  a program  that is                                                                    
     going to  be on  the Discovery  Channel.   Basically it                                                                    
     was about pedophiles [and] where  they operate.  One of                                                                    
     the things  that they do  is they  associate themselves                                                                    
     with youth  organizations as a volunteer  and then they                                                                    
     groom  the child  so they  can have  access to  them by                                                                    
     themselves.   This is  not excluding  anybody.   If you                                                                    
     look  in the  Anchorage newspaper  and watch  TV, there                                                                    
     [are  such headlines  as] "Anchorage  Teacher:   Sexual                                                                    
     Contact"; ...; "Fire Chief:   Sexual Contact"; "Wasilla                                                                    
     Teacher:     Sexual  Abuse  of  a   Miner";  "Fairbanks                                                                    
     Minister:    12 Counts  of  Sexual  Abuse of  a  Minor,                                                                    
     Sexual Contact,  Indecent Exposure";  "Anchorage Hockey                                                                    
     Coach:    Drugs  Possession";   "Boys  and  Girls  Club                                                                    
     Employee Fairbanks:  Sexual Abuse  of a Miner"; "Murder                                                                    
     of a Little Girl in Sitka."                                                                                                
     These  things have  got to  be stopped.   I  work as  a                                                                    
     volunteer for an  organization that does a  lot of work                                                                    
     with kids.   I've worked  for Little League and  I work                                                                    
     for  [the] Alaska  (indisc.) Softball  Association, and                                                                    
     we  run background  checks on  everybody [who]  coaches                                                                    
     with the  kids.   Some organizations  do; some  of them                                                                    
     My  youngest daughter,  unfortunately, came  in contact                                                                    
     with a  coach with an  organization that did not  run a                                                                    
     background check.   He was  a multiple  convicted felon                                                                    
     in  the state  of  Alaska and  never  had a  background                                                                    
     check done.   I think it's time that this  ceases.  The                                                                    
     state of Alaska  has one of the highest  rates of child                                                                    
     abuse in the nation; I  don't think that's something we                                                                    
     should be proud of.                                                                                                        
CHAIR DYSON stated  that [the committee] is trying  to figure out                                                               
where to draw the line with babysitters.                                                                                        
MR.   BOWEN  responded   that  he   doesn't  think   neighborhood                                                               
babysitters apply.   He said  he thinks any of  the organizations                                                               
that  have  volunteers working  for  them  to officially  provide                                                               
youth care services should be included.                                                                                         
Number 1738                                                                                                                     
DICK BLOCK,  Christian Science  Committee Publication  of Alaska,                                                               
testified  via teleconference  on HB  180.   He  stated that  his                                                               
concern  when he  first  reviewed this  legislation  was that  it                                                               
seemed to  be broad  enough to  cover Sabbath  schoolteachers and                                                               
those who  are volunteering  to work in  a nursery  during Sunday                                                               
services.  He added  that he is sure that is not  the intent.  He                                                               
said he would like to  thank Representative McGuire and her staff                                                               
for  accommodating [the  Christian Science  Committee Publication                                                               
of Alaska's]  concern by already  putting the amendment  into the                                                               
proposed CS.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  asked Mr. Bowen whether  his organization                                                               
pays [for  the background  checks] or if  the volunteers  pay for                                                               
MR. BOWEN  answered that the volunteers  do.  He said  he has his                                                               
background  check  done  once  a  year and  also  has  a  federal                                                               
background check.   He noted  that he keeps  a copy of  these and                                                               
that  one   background  check   is  good   for  [more   than  one                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS said  he  has  made a  list  of what  his                                                               
children have  been involved in,  which includes  summer softball                                                               
camps, wrestling,  piano, and dance.   He  asked if all  of those                                                               
would be on  [Mr. Bowen's] list of [activities  for which] people                                                               
would be subject to this check.                                                                                                 
Number 1852                                                                                                                     
MR. BOWEN  responded that he would  think if [a person]  has many                                                               
children  around  him  or  her   and  is  left  alone  [with  the                                                               
children], parents  would want to  know that the person  does not                                                               
have any convictions for assaulting a child.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS stated that he  thinks Mr. Bowen is right;                                                               
however, he  thinks it  is necessary to  know how  extensive this                                                               
requirement will be.                                                                                                            
MR. BOWEN remarked that he would  tend to take a stand that would                                                               
be more  rigid than some  people's because of the  experiences he                                                               
has gone  through.  He stated  that his two oldest  children were                                                               
assaulted by a  physical education teacher.   His oldest daughter                                                               
was [assaulted]  from the time  she was 10  till she was  16. His                                                               
son, and now  his youngest daughter, [were assaulted]  by a coach                                                               
who worked for one of the sports organizations in Anchorage.                                                                    
CHAIR  DYSON stated  that  he doesn't  think  [the committee]  is                                                               
ready to pass the  bill out.  He said two  things to consider are                                                               
the organizations that  have stature in government  or have filed                                                               
as a  nonprofit, and any organization  that by its nature  has to                                                               
have insurance.  This could tell if  there is a way to tailor the                                                               
law  so that  if [organizations]  have  background checks,  their                                                               
insurance  rates go  down or,  contrarily, if  they don't,  their                                                               
liability insurance doubles or triples.                                                                                         
MR.  BOWEN  stated  that one  of  the  ideas  he  had was  if  an                                                               
organization didn't perform background  checks, it would lose its                                                               
limit of liability  with the insurance company  and the insurance                                                               
company  would be  forced to  pay [the  organization's] judgment.                                                               
He  said   this  would  make  the   insurance  companies  require                                                               
organizations  to   run  background   checks  in  order   to  get                                                               
[HB 180 was held over.]                                                                                                         

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