February 16, 2015

Bill requiring sex-offender checks on hotel workers advances

2-16-2015 Arizona:

PHOENIX — Told of the rapes of two guests in separate incidents in Mesa, members of a Senate panel voted Monday to require hotels to see if those who have access to room keys are sex offenders.

SB 1432
spells out that owners or managers have to use one of two available Internet websites before hiring anyone who can get into a guest’s room. If the employee shows up on either one, the hotel is barred from providing keys, keycards or any other method of getting into a room.

The vote followed testimony of attorneys who represent two women who were attacked in two separate incidents at two separate hotels — both reportedly by the same man.

One was in September 2011. An attorney for the two women said he was fired after that but managed to get a similar job at another Mesa hotel. That led to a second attack on another women nine months later.

In both cases, police say they suspect the same man, a Level 3 registered sex offender, the most serious category and considered most likely to reoffend.

Each woman has filed suit against the hotel where each was staying.

Adam Barlow, one of the attorneys in the case, said requiring such background checks and a ban on sex offenders having access to keys makes sense.

He said there already are laws which require residents of a neighborhood to be notified when a sex offender moves in.

“In many aspects, I think a hotel is a mini neighborhood in itself,” Barlow told members of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Workforce Development.

With extended stays, Barlow said, a hotel “becomes a home away from home.” And he said people are entitled to have reasonable expectations of privacy.

He said that, just like home, people lock their doors at night. But the big difference is that in a hotel, there are certain employees who also have access to rooms.

The concept, at least, appears to have the support of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association.

Lobbyist Marcus Dell’Artino said members of his group are not opposed to the legislation. But he said they are concerned that the wording of the measure is “ambiguous” and could create unintended problems.

Dell’Artino said the industry standard is to have background checks on employees who have access to rooms.

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, who sponsored the legislation, said there are some details yet to be worked out.

One of those is the fact that the measure as approved by the panel Monday has no enforcement mechanism and no penalties for those hotels that ignore the law.

Hobbs said she is counting on key changes when the measure goes to the full Senate.

And Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said he wants something in the legislation to ensure there are regular checks made of employees, not just at the time they are hired. ..Source.. by Howard Fischer Capitol Media Service

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