State senator announces move to repeal crime bill SB 91
An Anchorage lawmaker has taken aim at the state’s troubled crime reform bill, Senate Bill 91, announcing a bill which would repeal it.
Sen. Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) unveiled her proposal to repeal the 125-page bill on Friday. In a statement on the move, Costello said it was “necessary” to “start fresh with a clean slate” after SB 91, which she said was associated with a statewide rise in crime.
“While SB 91 was well-intentioned and well researched, my constituents, neighbors and friends are calling out for repeal of this bill,” Costello said. “Every Alaskan is suffering from either a burglary, theft or threat of these crimes, or worse, making us feel unsafe in our own homes and neighborhoods.”
Costello said Friday that she grew up in her district, but things have changed since the days when people could leave their doors unlocked.
"As a parent I am very concerned," Costello said. "And so I am doing this out of a sense of duty and trust that we need to reestablish with the community."
Costello emphasized that she didn't find fault with anyone involved in the bill's creation or passage.
"We are not placing blame at all; I voted for the bill," Costello said. "But I do think we need to recognize the impact this is having and say we need to start over."
Joshua Decker, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska’s executive director, questioned Costello’s move Friday. In a statement, he accused her of reversing course on SB 91 as one of its co-sponsors and “trying to hide behind a ‘tough on crime’ platform,” despite being a part of Legislature majorities that have cut law-enforcement funding over the past seven years.
“It is easy to play to the crowd by saying we should lock up more of our people, but the truth is that policy doesn’t make us safer,” Decker said. “What does it matter whether someone faces 3 months or 12 months of jail time if they know no one is there to investigate and prosecute the crime?”
SB 91 was intended to reduce prison populations and save the state money, in part by reducing penalties for non-violent offenders. During its passage through the Legislature last year it came under harsh criticism from law-enforcement and victims-rights groups, which claimed in a letter that the policy behind it "seeks to balance the State’s budget on the backs of crime victims and local governments."
Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion mentioned SB 91 when he announced his resignation earlier this month, saying the bill means that possessing drugs is “now a misdemeanor with really no consequence.” The Anchorage Assembly has also weighed in on the bill, telling state lawmakers it has had unintended consequences on prosecuting local crimes.
Gov. Bill Walker has concurred with the Assembly’s assessment, asking lawmakers to consider Senate Bill 54 – a fix to some issues with SB 91 – during the Legislature’s fourth special session set to convene next month.
Costello plans to formally introduce her repeal bill at the beginning of the Legislature’s next regular session.
Lauren Maxwell contributed information to this story.