Walker adds crime fix bill to special session
Governor Bill Walker announced Friday when lawmakers enter their fourth special session in October, they will also be discussing public safety in addition to the state's revenue.
Walker said when Senate Bill 91 became law, adjustments needed to be made to the state's criminal justice system. However, with the latest crime report from the Federal Bureau of Investigations showing an uptick in crime in Alaska, Walker said the state needs to act to change what lawmakers realize to be unintended consequences from the legislation.
"There is no question that crime is up," he said. "It's up in pretty much every area."
Walker said Senate Bill 54 would give judge's discretion over when it's appropriate for jail time in low-level thefts and low-level felonies.
"There have to be consequences for wrongdoing," he said.
SB 91 had created a system where low-level theft in the fourth degree didn't allow judge's to have discretion to impose jail time on the first two offenses. On the third offense, judge's would have discretion for five days of suspended jail time.
SB 54 would allow five days of suspended jail time on the first offense, five days of active jail time for the second offense and 10 days for the third offense. On first-time Class C felonies, judge's would be allowed to impose up to one year of jail time.
Acting Deputy Chief Sean Case of the Anchorage Police Department said he could see some potential under SB 54.
"Crimes like vehicle theft, a felon being in possession of a firearm, violating a restraining order with a firearm -- those types of crime have the potential if convicted," Case said. "Criminal punishment attached to them, where they don't under SB 91."
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth also said SB 54 would help with people struggling with drug addiction since judges would also have discretion over rehabilitation.
"I believe the threat of jail time will provide a better deterrent and also incentivize offenders who are suffering from addiction to get drug treatment," she said.
However, for Anchorage resident Phyllis Kruger, even the promise of some change isn't enough. She showed up to Walker's press conference to press officials over crime she believes is related to SB 91's passage. She said she'd rather see the bill repealed and for lawmakers to start over.
"I'm seeing crime all over our city," she said. "I'm tired of having friends calling to me say their cars and vehicles have been stolen or purses being stolen out of their cars."
Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche said SB 54 was a priority to them to help communities be safer, passing the legislation 19-1.
"Whatever the causal effects are, we've seen crime increase since 2013, whether it's related to the opioid crisis or the fact that we're in a recession," he said. "That's really not my place to judge, however, our communities are sick and tired of lower property crimes and more serious crimes."
Micciche said he hopes the House will also pass SB54 and said this was his request to Governor Walker to add the bill.