Alaska House takes up crime bill on day 105 of session
It’s been 15 days since the legislative session was supposed to be over. Members of House leadership say they have to pass a budget before gaveling out, but they spent Monday working on a different measure.
Senate Bill 91 would revamp the way the state approaches criminal justice. Gov. Bill Walker and Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams aren’t calling it a must-have, though they support its passage.
“Is it a must-have? No, but it’d be a huge loss if we didn’t have it,” Williams said, adding that, while the bill may not be perfect, he’d rather pass some version of it this year and make adjustments as needed next session.
No members of House leadership would accept an interview to explain why the bill is being given priority in that body. Rep. David Guttenberg, a minority member who sits on the House Finance Committee, said the Legislature must either pass or fail the bill in order to get on with the budget.
“For some people, it’s a must-have, I mean people have been working on it for a long time,” he said. “But it is a budget bill, there’s a lot of money to be saved in here.”
Dozens of last-minute amendments were offered to the bill Monday, including one backed by Butch Moore, father of Breanna Moore, who was killed at the hands of her boyfriend, Joshua Almeda, in 2014.
“There are a lot of amendments that need to be made, and I would hope that our lawmakers would make amendments that will protect and save lives,” Moore said in an interview Monday, adding that his daughter’s life might have been saved if many of the amendments being offered were in place.
If SB 91 passes this year, Moore said he wants to see a provision requiring anyone convicted and sentenced with an alcohol restriction have his or her license revoked and replaced with one that has a red bar to indicate that condition.
Moore said if that part of the regulation had been in place, Almeda wouldn’t have been able to buy alcohol that night.
“He was on an alcohol restriction, on probation, they did not take his license away, they did not communicate, the court system did not communicate to DMV that he’s on an alcohol restriction,” Moore said. “And they don’t take the license away from anyone. So he simply walked into a liquor store with his ID, bought a bottle of liquor, and within two hours murdered my daughter.”
Rep. Lance Pruitt planned to introduce an amendment to SB 91 that would address Moore’s concern. It was one of dozens of amendments introduced Monday, 19 of which the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Coghill, said hadn’t been seen by other members previously.
Coghill said the Senate agreed SB 91 was a must-have this year, but in the face of so many changes, Coghill acknowledged it might not pass.
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