Crime bills, PFD, nominations still await legislative decisions
Now that the House has sent a $10.29 billion budget to the Senate, priorities take a sharp shift.
On Friday, House leaders said they will place a premium on criminal justice reform, a campaign priority for many lawmakers and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The pledge comes three days after Dunleavy criticized the House for what he considered slow movement on his crime bills.
All four of the governor's bills remain in their first referred House committee. House Bill 51 has yet to get a hearing but is scheduled to be heard by the State Affairs Committee April 16.
The Senate has advanced one of Dunleavy’s bills to the Finance Committee, the last before a floor vote; three moved to their second of three committees.
After Dunleavy spoke out against the House’s progress on crime bills, House Judiciary Committee Chair Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, said he will be devoting time to crime bills, even as he normally doesn’t hear legislation after the 90th day, which is Sunday.
On Friday, House Rules Chair and former law enforcement officer Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, said he’s confident the Legislature will agree on meaningful crime reform.
“I think we are going to come out with a package that protects Alaskans, that introduces more accountability in our justice process and also does a better job at intervening in the cycle of addiction and restoring people who need a chance to get their life out of a cycle of addiction they haven’t been able to recover from,” he said. “We’re looking at it very holistically.”
Last year’s campaign promises were simple: Repeal Senate Bill 91, the legislation passed three years ago that was quickly deemed ineffective and blamed for continued crime spikes.
Kopp said lawmakers really began reworking the old legislation two years ago and this year simply continue the exercise.
“A large part of SB 91 has already been repealed; SB 91 is no longer even the law of the land,” Kopp said.
He added that criminal justice legislation is living and dynamic, not static.
“The Legislature every year comes back, fine tunes it," said Kopp. "It would be incorrect to say we are focused like a laser on a bumper sticker, repeal SB 91. That would be incorrect. We are focused like a laser on improving public safety.”
House and Senate leaders on Friday also identified a few other priorities:
Determining a Permanent Fund dividend.
Last year the House debated for a week over the PFD and agreed on $1,600. The Senate quickly supported that and former Gov. Bill Walker approved it.
House Finance co-chair Neal Foster, D-Nome, said based on the budget passed Thursday, the dividend would be about $1,284. Dunleavy has two PFD bills, but they also include back pay for the three years the payment fell under the statutory formula.
Placing a new spending cap and dividend formula in the constitution or into a new statute.
The Senate has SB 103 and SB 104 in response to Dunleavy’s amendment proposals.
On Friday, the House Finance Committee introduced its own appropriation limit bill. HB 131 has not been scheduled for a hearing.
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on Dunleavy’s cabinet and board appointments Wednesday. Several confirmation hearings are still scheduled in coming days for Adam Crum, the Health and Social Services commissioner and Amanda Price, the public safety commissioner.
Appointments need a simple majority among all 60 lawmakers — 31 votes — for legislative approval. Failure to get that would force Dunleavy to start over for that nomination.
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