Bill would fix language on Missouri's background check law

Rep. Rudy Viet is shown Tuesday, April 12, 2022, on the floor of the Missouri House addressing the Speaker of the House. (Julie Smith/News Tribune)

A local lawmaker presented a bill in a Missouri House committee hearing Tuesday morning that would include language concerning federal background checks that is more palatable to the federal government than original text.

House Bill 81, sponsored by Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, is intended to correct wording in previous legislation that requires background checks for certain staff members of licensed child-placing agencies, licensed residential care facilities and unlicensed residential care facilities, so the FBI can approve the language.

The FBI approves it or sends it back, Veit said.

"I want to do anything we can to speed up background checks and make them efficient," Veit testified. "That (new) employee may be gone before you get them hired. We don't have the two- and three- and four-week delays we had last year."

Immediately after the legislation passed, the Missouri Department of Social Services anticipated it would have to complete about 5,000 checks, according to staff from the department. Instead, it has completed about 9,600.

So the state is getting the required background checks completed, despite the legislation language, Veit said.

Corrections to the wording will speed up the process, he added.

References to "other support staff" are struck from the bill by this amendment, according to Erica Signars, who oversees residential licensing, residential placement and the background checks unit for the DSS. Signars testified HB 81 reduces the ambiguity of "other support staff."

She said child-placement agencies have a revolving door of staff.

"We anticipate we will constantly see requests for background checks," Signars told the House Children and Families Committee on Tuesday. "That's the nature of the work."

Signars said changing language in the law will remove challenges the Missouri Volunteer and Employee Criminal History Service (MOVECHS) has experienced in completing background checks. The MOVECHS program is a service for obtaining fingerprint-based Missouri open and closed criminal history record information and federal criminal history record information from the systems of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the U.S. Department of Justice on people who work or volunteer with children, the elderly or people with disabilities, according to the Missouri Department of Public Safety website.

The state developed the program to enable non-governmental entities that meet specific criteria to obtain criminal history records information with the submission of fingerprints on current and prospective applicants. To qualify for the service, an entity must provide care or care-placement services for children, the elderly or people with disabilities.

The bill would also remove language that requires the national sex offender registry. Staff at the DSS said that language is redundant because DSS checks with the states where applicants have resided over the past five years.

HB 81: Modifies provisions relating to required background checks of individuals employed by or associated with licensed residential care facilities, child placing agencies or residential care facilities

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Sponsor: Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville