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Update on bills related to Background Screening (HB 7069 by Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council/SB 1520 by Sen. Storms)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

These bills will increase criminal background screening requirements of employees who work with vulnerable adults and children. The House bill has been in messages to the Senate for some time and the Senate bill is on Special Order Calendar for Wednesday, 4/28/2010. These are priority bills for the Advocacy Center and are vital to increase protections for the people we serve.

Currently, Florida has one of the largest vulnerable populations in the country with over 17 percent of the state’s citizens over the age of 65, and many children and disabled adults. These vulnerable individuals require special care as they are at an increased risk of abuse. In September 2009, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel published a series of articles detailing their six-month investigation into Florida’s background screening system for caregivers of children, elders and people with disabilities. Among their findings were hundreds of employees with criminal records working with vulnerable persons because employers failed to check their backgrounds or kept them on the job despite their criminal pasts. They also uncovered that lack of proof of a nationwide criminal check on employees is the most frequent violation found by state inspectors in day care centers. Screening problems are among the four most common violations in assisted living facilities, adult day cares, and nursing agencies. Home health agencies and nursing homes are also cited, but less frequently.

These bills substantially rewrite requirements and procedures for background screening of the persons and businesses that deal primarily with vulnerable persons. Some key changes include:

  • Requiring that job applicants covered by these bills may not be employed until the screening has been completed and it is determined that the person is qualified.
  • Requiring certain personnel who volunteer for more than 10 hours a month to begin Level 2 screening. They must also be in line of sight of a person who has met the screening requirement.  Current law exempts volunteers who assist for less than 40 hours a month.
  • Increasing all Level 1 screening to Level 2 screening. This will not require existing employees to be rescreened until they otherwise come up for rescreening pursuant to existing law.
  • Adding additional serious crimes to the list of disqualifying offenses for Level 1 and Level 2 screening.
  • Providing that an exemption for a disqualifying felony may not be granted until after at least three years from the completion of all sentencing sanctions for that felony.
  • Requiring that all exemptions from disqualification be granted only by the agency head.
  • Requiring all fingerprint submissions to be done electronically by August 1, 2012, or sooner, should an agency decide to do so by rule. However, for those applying under AHCA, electronic prints will be required as of August 1, 2010.
  • Authorizing agencies to request the retention of fingerprints by FDLE. The bill also provides for rulemaking and related implementation provisions for retention of fingerprints.

For more information, please contact Dana Farmer, Public Policy Coordinator at the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, Inc., at 850-488-9071, etc. 226, or 800-342-0823, ext. 226.

Posted on 04/27