Senate taking close look at Dunleavy crime bills
Efforts to rewrite a sweeping Alaska crime bill passed three years ago got under way this week in the state Legislature.
Two Senate panels have held hearings on three out of four bills introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who rolled out four proposals to repeal components of the much-maligned Senate Bill 91.
The bill received small revisions each of the last two years, but Dunleavy is taking a deeper dive into the current statutes while looking to change sentencing guidelines, drug classifications and parole and probation conditions.
Soaring crime rates linked to SB91 quickly became campaign slogans. They also became an occasional attack on Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, the lead author of the 2016 legislation. Coghill serves on the Senate's State Affairs Committee, which is hearing two of Dunleavy’s bills.
Coghill said he understand the need to revisit SB91, but wants to make sure a repeal doesn’t receive a rubber stamp.
“What we are going to be asking this time is what didn’t work,” Coghill said. “We’re returning to some old ways. Were they more successful? I think it’s important to ask those questions all along the way because it’s easy to do kind of a wholesale repeal, but there might be some unintended consequences of that.
“There are certainly places where it didn’t work as intended. I totally get that. I’m going to be open. I’m going to be thoughtful, but it’s going important to look at why we’re changing it and what’s going to be the beneficial effect.”
The bills have a price tag that so far sits around $45 million, mostly covering incarceration costs. While it was expected, it is receiving pushback.
Sen. Jess Kiehl, D-Juneau, said he’s concerned about lack of attention to treatment and rehabilitation.
“There is nothing in (Dunleavy's SB32) for treatment; there’s nothing for getting people jobs when they get out of prison; nothing to get them into apartments,” he said. “It’s more than $40 million a year every year.
“It is not a productive direction. This state has some serious crime problems. There are some tools hidden in the bill that I think law enforcement needs. Making angry speeches and throwing $40 million a year at the problem is not a serious way to address Alaska’s serious crime problems.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee is taking public testimony on SB32 Saturday at 1 p.m.
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