Anchorage Assembly calls for changes to SB 91
The Anchorage Assembly is urging state lawmakers to take action on Senate Bill 91. As legislators prepare to reopen debate on the criminal justice overhaul in a special session, assembly members are drafting a resolution in support of change.
Governor Bill Walker is asking lawmakers to consider SB 54, which modifies provisions of SB 91, next month.
"Ours says good idea, you missed a couple things," assembly member Eric Croft said of its resolution on the measure.
SB 91 was approved by lawmakers last year, but Croft says the assembly is already seeing problems.
"I think you'll find across the entire assembly, maybe across the entire state, a consensus that there needs to be some changes. That some of the things SB 91 did, didn't work," said Croft.
Croft, a former municipal prosecutor, points to shoplifting as one example.
"It [SB 91] made any theft under 250 [dollars] really hard to prosecute. Essentially you couldn't get any jail time at all. And while we don't want to throw a lot of those guys in jail, the hook of jail was what kept them from going back. So we're seeing a lot of people who shoplift 200 [dollars], they know it's just a ticket, they go right back in and take something else," Croft said.
Assembly member Fred Dyson helped craft SB 91. He agrees its implementation didn't go as planned.
"There's a couple things that we never thought of," Dyson said. "We wanted the second or third time somebody did a property crime, for them to be able to be jailed. But the law said second conviction. Well, the courts are so backed up, I was told yesterday that it might be eight months before they get a trial. So, shoplifters had done several crimes that were not subject to the increased penalties because there hadn't been a conviction."
Dyson says the state's opioid epidemic and budget crunch added complications.
"It was the perfect storm. The crime was going up before SB 91. Neither the judges, the courts, prosecutors were ready to adapt to the new regime," Dyson said.
Now, the consensus among assembly members and Anchorage lawmakers -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- is that some parts of SB 91 need to change.
The assembly's resolution may add to the urgency.
"It certainly doesn't hurt. I will keep it in my back pocket, cite it," said Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) who opposed SB 91 last year. "I don't know a lot about the assembly, but I imagine it will pass it 11 to 0, and, I will highlight that fact."
The assembly's resolution is still in draft form. Croft says it will be up for public comment on Tuesday, October 10.