Senate Judiciary forced into Saturday hearing
Three Senators are imposing a rarely-used rule to force Senate Judiciary Committee Chair John Coghill to hold hearings on three bills he wished to keep in committee.
One of those bills calls for renaming portions of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act after Breanna Moore, a homicide victim. That bill – HB 214 – is also known as Bree’s Law.
Coghill says he will also hear SB 127, a bill to repeal a high-profile crime bill known as SB 91, which passed two years ago.
He’ll then hear a third bill, SJR1, to enshrine the permanent fund dividend into the constitution. The dividend has been reduced from the statutory formula each of the last two years; this year the Senate and House appear to agree on a $1,600 payout.
Three members of the five-person committee invoked a seldom-used provision that overruled Coghill’s wishes keep the bills from being heard.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) joined republicans Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) and Mike Shower (R-Wasilla) to push for the hearing.
Wielechowski works in the Democratic-led minority; Costello is in the Republican-led majority; Shower does not align with either caucus.
“The only disrespect that I would find it in it is that they didn’t talk to me about that issue-- about them overruling the chair,” Coghill said. “That is a professional barrier they crossed over in my view, but they used the rules and the rules are there for those very reasons. So I don’t hold that against them. It’s a totally appropriate deal.”
Costello has been pushing to have SB91 repealed, even as she co-sponsored the bill with Coghill.
She says the bill has not been effective and believes changes are a must.
“As you know, we had to go through some hoops to get a hearing, which was somewhat unfortunate because I have just been hearing from Alaskans across the state about their frustration with Senate Bill 91, which was the criminal justice reform bill that I co-sponsored when it came around."
Coghill says he will give each bill sponsor a chance to “make their best case.”
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