Assembly chair criticizes SB 91 for lack of treatment
The Anchorage Assembly chair is calling for immediate state funding for drug treatment programs, prosecutors and police.
Chair of the Anchorage Assembly Dick Traini says that money is needed to clean-up a problem that the state's new crime law -- Senate Bill 91 -- created.
The Anchorage Assembly weighed two resolutions Tuesday night. One of them asks for specific changes to the law and the increase in funding. The other calls for lawmakers to ditch the measure altogether. Traini says the two are not mutually exclusive and he supports both measures.
Either way, at least several members agree SB 91 has one fundamental flaw.
The motto of the criminal justice overhaul passed by lawmakers last year was "smart on crime." The goal was to get some people out of prison and into treatment. But some members of the Assembly say the state left out a key piece.
"You better have money there for treatment," said Traini.
State lawmakers didn't set aside any money when they passed the bill. Now, Traini says, Anchorage is left picking up the tab.
"What we see is a lot of people getting out of jail, and they stay here in Anchorage because we have the treatment here that villages, smaller towns don't have," Traini said. "The legislature needs to make the hard decisions to provide the treatment. Anchorage shouldn't have to. But if they end up shoving it to us, we're going to have to. What do we tell our constituents? 'I'm sorry, we're not going to put money into it?''
Senator Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) voted for Senate Bill 91. She's now calling for a full repeal, but she says it's not because of an issue with treatment.
"The prisoners who weren't in programs, that was the status quo," Costello said in an interview Tuesday. "So, you're making improvements to a system and those improvements would come. But that has nothing to do with the car theft and the robberies that are happening now."
Regardless of what lawmakers did about treatment, Assemblyman Fred Dyson -- who helped craft the bill -- now says, Gov. Bill Walker shouldn't have signed it.
"You've got to spend the money up front in order to stop recidivism or slow it down," Dyson said. "When he went to sign the bill he should have been thinking, advised by his staff, 'We've gotta have some time to get these things in place,' instead of just signing it. That's part of his responsibility."
Now, Walker and lawmakers are left trying to fix the problem. Whether the state should start over or try to salvage something out of the new system.
The Anchorage Assembly approved the resolution that supports a strengthened version of SB 54 by a vote of 10-1, with Demboski being the no vote. The resolution supporting a full repeal failed, with only Demboski, Traini, and Eric Croft voting yes.
KTVA reached out to Walker's office for reaction to Dyson's comments. Jonathon Taylor, a spokesperson for Walker told KTVA the administration is researching the issue and will provide a response as soon as possible.
Traini says Anchorage has just 14 beds. The municipal ombudsman Darrell Hess, says people have died waiting to get into them. Hess says the wait can sometimes stretch years.