Bus Driver Safeguards Recommended

State Rep. Matt Huuki today testified in front of the House Transportation Committee in support of his legislation to allow fingerprinting and background checks to be conducted by transit service providers.

Huuki’s bill would allow, but not require, private and public transportation providers to have mandatory fingerprinting and background checks for prospective employees that deal with a vulnerable population.

“This is about authorization for responsible providers, for them to work with the state to have a process in place,” said Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine. “It’s not a mandate — it’s about having better options for greater safety. We need to make sure some of our more vulnerable residents are protected.”

Huuki was joined by constituent Vicki White of On-Tran, who he credits with bringing the issue to his attention.

“Last fall a position in On-Tran opened for a bus driver, and the number one candidate was from the state of New York,” White said. “We ran our typical state of Michigan police background check, but I didn’t feel this was sufficient for an out-of-state hire, as this individual would be transporting children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.”

Under the introduced legislation, the State Police would hold an individual’s information confidentially, and it would not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Providers would be able to work with the State Police to determine the eligibility of the employee.

“Some important questions were raised in committee, and I’m open to changes that would improve the bill,” Huuki said. “We want to make certain we have the best possible policy, protecting the rights of applicants and the safety of the general public.”

A committee vote on Huuki’s bill is anticipated for Wednesday, May 23.