Walker unveils latest version of public safety plan
Gov. Bill Walker unveiled the latest version of his public safety action plan Monday, a month before Alaskans will decide whether he remains in office to implement it.
Major elements of the plan include a panel to review overdose deaths in the state. The plan also provides judges the option to hand down jail time for a first conviction on drug use charges, a change to current rules which require judges to suspend jail time for first and second offenses.
Walker also wants to provide a safety crisis chat and tip line for students who may know about threats to their schools.
The governor may not get a chance to follow through on the plan’s recommendations, however, as he seeks a second term when voters go to the polls Nov. 6. Crime has been a major issue this year, due to the discussion of Senate Bill 91 and the state’s Pretrial Enforcement Division as well as cases such as the no-jail plea deal for Justin Schneider in an assault during which he strangled and masturbated on a woman.
Walker’s Democratic challenger Sen. Mark Begich released a public safety plan in July, focusing on fully staffing the state’s criminal justice system as well as enhancing partnerships within government to fight crime.
“We’ve been talking about crime since the day I got into the campaign,” Begich said. “We’ve laid out a comprehensive crime plan on our website. We’ve talked about how it can’t be just one piece of legislation but multiple facets to fighting crime. It is the number one issue in the state from everywhere I go from town hall meetings to everyone I talk to.”
The Republican nominee, Mike Dunleavy, who is leading the race in a recent poll, told the Anchorage Daily News in September that he was “busy campaigning” and couldn’t release his plan until after the election. A section of his campaign website addresses crime with a series of bullet points, including the full repeal of SB91.
“They’ve been both down there, Governor Walker, Mike Dunleavy for the last four years and the only thing that’s changed is crime is now number one in the nation in Alaska, and that’s unacceptable,” Begich said.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Dunleavy reiterated his opposition to SB91.
"Under Walker’s failed leadership, Alaska now leads the nation in almost every category of crime, making our state the most dangerous in the country," Dunleavy said. "State government has no higher priority than protecting life and property. As governor, I will make public safety the number one priority of my administration on day one, not 30 days before re-election. I will ensure that police, prosecutors, and our courts have the resources they need to effectively fight crime."
Scott Jensen and Joe Vigil contributed information to this story.
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