Chenault seeking explosive actions

Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting a license to handle explosives in the state of Alaska could prove a bit tougher if a bill proposed by Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, becomes law.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is authorized by state law to issue explosives licenses known as certificates of fitness. Applicants currently are required to submit to a criminal background check within the state, but they are not required to submit fingerprints to verify their identification, Chenault said in a sponsor statement.

Nor is the background check set up to discover an applicant’s criminal past in other states.

That lack could lead to licensing someone who may be a national security risk, Chenault said.

“To help ensure that an explosive handler’s license is not issued to an individual that may cause a national security threat or a threat to Alaska, it is necessary to have a statutory requirement for a fingerprint-based nationwide background check,” he said.

The Alaska Department of Public Safety is not specifically authorized under existing law to provide such a nationwide background check for licensing purposes.

Chenault’s bill would allow Public Safety to perform a fingerprint-based nationwide criminal history search and turn that data over to the Labor Department. The cost of such data research would be borne by the applicant as a yet-to-be-established fee. Applicants would also be required to submit fingerprints. The bill would permit the Department of Public Safety to turn those fingerprints over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Officials with he departments of Labor and Public Safety gave the proposed bill a zero fiscal impact — that is, analysis said implementing the bill would entail no cost to the departments’ budgets.

Chenault’s aide, Sue Wright, said the bill was prompted by a request from Labor Department officials who recognized a safety issue that needed to be addressed.

The bill has cleared the House Labor and Commerce Committee and is currently before the House Finance Committee.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor also is considering changes to the administrative code covering explosives handling licensing that would require an applicant to provide information regarding any felony or misdemeanor conviction involving violence toward persons or property, and adding language indicating that certificates would be issued to an applicant who does not have such a conviction where the past criminal act “could affect the safe handling and use of explosives.”

The bill is House Bill 338.

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