After SB91 loophole discovered, committee increases penalties for sexual abuse of a minor
After a loophole in Senate Bill 91 came to light last week that caught lawmakers and the governor by surprise, on Thursday, an Anchorage legislator added language to a bill to fix it.
Current law eliminated jail time for some types of sexual abuse of a minor-- if it’s a first-time offense.
The Alaska House Finance Committee is debating a bill, Senate Bill 54, that would add a minimum sentence of one year for that crime. On Thursday, Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) took the provision a step further; he and his committee colleagues unanimously agreed to increase that minimum to one-and-a-half years.
"Sexual abuse of a minor is, even though it’s a class C felony, like theft of a car, to me it’s more serious," said Gara, vice-chair of the Finance Committee, who says he was surprised to learn of the loophole in the law when KTVA aired a story last week.
"To me, we have to have a discussion in this state about women who are being abused, young women who are being abused, girls who are being abused and I don’t like the national conversation that has been trivializing those things," Gara said.
SB54 could move to the House floor for a vote as soon as Saturday. As written, it would add jail time for lower level crimes, which could increase state costs by up to $4 million a year.