A State Senate bill to reform the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners was advanced by the Senate Commerce Committee in a 5-0 vote.
The bill, spurred by the board’s decision to reinstate known and convicted sex offender Bryan K. Bajakian, was sponsored by State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), and State Sen. Joe Vitale (D-19).
Bajakian was a registered sex offender in Florida who was on lifetime parole when his license was renewed while working in New Jersey. Additionally, he was convicted of luring and firearms charges, and ordered not to see patients under the age of 18 without supervision.
“No sex offender should be allowed to work in a position of trust with patients in healthcare settings where they are most vulnerable, especially with children,” said Vitale, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Denying them licenses should be automatic. The oversight boards should be looking out for the safety of patients and the public, not the industry they are regulating.”
Stipulations Under the Bill
The bill would add two public members to the 11-person chiropractic board, and reform the qualifications needed for new or renewed chiropractic licenses.
Additionally, the law would explicitly ban anyone convicted of a felony sexual offense from being licensed as a healthcare professional, including chiropractors.
Healthcare entities that license or regulate members would be prohibited from issuing an initial license or renewal without checking an individual’s criminal history via a fingerprint background checking or the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Licenses would not be issued to those with sexual convictions, those who endangered the welfare of a child, or those attempting to lure or entice a child.
Questioning Board’s Decision Making
Sweeney argued the board’s decision to sanction the return of a convicted sex offender was irresponsible and illogical, and would be illegal under the law.
“Reforms are obviously needed to make sure the board makes the health and safety of the people of New Jersey its top priority. More public members will bring additional oversight and more rigorous background checks will help prevent this from happening again,” he said.
Weinberg agreed with the sentiment, saying the decision to reinstate Bajakian placed others in harm’s way.
“The idea that the state board representing practicing chiropractors could vote unanimously to reinstate the license of a convicted sex offender is a slap in the face to people everywhere who have faced the trauma of sexual misconduct,” said Weinberg.