Dunleavy's crime bill receives public vetting
Nearly 60 people on Saturday weighed in on one of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s crime bills during a public testimony hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The committee this week began hearing Senate Bill 32, which focuses on restoring drug classifications and sentencing guidelines to their status before lawmakers passed sweeping legislation under Senate Bill 91 three years ago.
Many expressed concerns over whether SB 32 would infringe on the state’s legal marijuana industry. Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) also raised this issue on Friday during a hearing that reviewed the bill.
“Can you clarify that folks that are licenses possessing the legal amount of marijuana are not brought under this,” he asked Deputy Attorney General Robert Henderson. “The same for growing the legal quantity as per their licenses are not part of this change?”
Henderson told the panel, as part of his sectional review to SB 32, that the bill focuses on the unregulated — “or illegal” — marijuana market and “does not touch upon or reach into” the regulated marijuana industry.
Others wanted to make sure lawmakers don’t forget the value of treatment toward rehabilitation, not just increased incarceration penalties.
“I'd had not made any headway at all in all these years until I took treatment this past year at Akeela,” said Michael Berger, who identified himself as a recovering addict at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office. “Not perfect the way it is, but it goes a long way in teaching someone how to change the way they think and put right before wrong.”
Berger was among four who testified at the Anchorage LIO Saturday. Anchorage resident Mary Geddes had similar concerns.
“SB 32 calls for sentencing increases, but there is overwhelming evidence on local and national level that lengthening sentences is ineffective at reducing recidivism,” she said.
SB 32 is one of four crime bills introduced by Dunleavy last month. The bill received its first hearing Wednesday and again Friday when committee members received a two-day break down of the 36-page bill from Henderson.
“What SB 32 does and what the goal of SB 32 is to return that discretion to the prosecutors and to the judges to ensure that adequate sentences are allowed under the law and allow judges to impose those sentences when necessary,” Henderson said. “One of the things we saw in SB 91 was there is a significant focus on rehabilitation of the offender with less of a focus on the victim and the community.
“One of the things that SB32 does is it really focus on the other sentencing criteria including the serious of the offense, the restoration of the victim and reaffirmation of societal norms," Henderson continued. "That is not to say rehabilitation is not an important factor. It was always remain an important factor, but it can’t be the only factor.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled another hearing on SB 32 on Monday. On Wednesday, the committee will begin hearings on Dunleavy’s SB 35 and Micciche’s SB 12.
Both bills take aim at Justin Schneider's nationally known no-jail time plea deal. Micciche worked with grass roots group No More Free Passes, which is pursuing several the following objectives:
• Classify unwanted contact with semen as a sexual crime, which means perpetrators can be required to register as sex offenders for this crime;
• Require that strangulation to the point of unconsciousness is defined as assault in the first degree, which carries a sentence of 5 to 20 years; and
• Eliminate credit toward time served for electronic monitoring for sexual assault convictions.
Both bills will also get to be heard on Friday.
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