Dunleavy urges progress on House crime bills, leaves special session on the table
"We are imploring once again that the Legislature move our crime package," he said during a news conference Monday afternoon.
The four bills proposed changes to Alaska's criminal justice system in the areas of:
- sex offenses
- pretrial and bail
- probation and parole
- sentencing and classification of crimes
By Wednesday, each bill should reach its final Senate referral committee: Senate Finance.
"We're counting down to the last three weeks and we have seen no movement in the House on the crime bills," said Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, "and that's got to change."
The proposed legislation targets certain parts of Senate Bill 91 that are still in place, by increasing the penalties for drug trafficking that SB 91 reduced and making possessing drugs a felony again. It would also address the Justin Schneider loophole, and broaden enforcement of the sex offender registry in Alaska.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price said Alaska's violent crime rates have only continued to rise.
"I have done a preliminary review of data that isn't publicly available yet — but will be very, very soon — regarding crime in 2018 and violent offenses, sexual offenses, have gone up double-digits in 2018," said Price. "So we know that we continue to be plagued with violent offenses and drugs, drugs harming Alaskans and drugs impacting our families."
Price noted that it would require significant analysis of the data to determine if the rise was at all attributable to the laws.
Rep. Matt Claman, an Anchorage Democrat and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, responded to Dunleavy's news conference late Monday afternoon, referencing greater concerns within the governor's proposed budget.
"It's great to talk about bills, but I want to look in the governor's budget and see where in the budget is he making more of a priority for public safety workers and prosecutors, because if we don't have the public safety workers we're nowhere," Claman said.
Claman and Dunleavy hold vastly different views on SB 91 and how to best protect Alaskans. However, both seem to have found common ground in the belief that people who commit the most violent offenses, like murder, should receive lengthy prison sentences.
"What I hear from the public is they want us to get it right," Claman said. "They want us to get it right in terms of changes we've made to the law and they want us to get it right in terms of the resources we dedicate to police prosecutors, and that’s what we’ve actually already done in the house."
He cited the addition of prosecutors to the budget, strong support for the Village Police Safety Officer (VSPO) program and intent language added to make sure more resources are dedicated toward investigating sex crimes in rural Alaska. The House is also moving forward with a proposal to put a pension plan in place for public safety workers.
Claman offered no specific plans Monday to work on the governor's crime bills.
When asked whether he would call a special session to work on crime legislation, Dunleavy said, "I'm not gonna take anything off the table."
As for where a special session would be held, Dunleavy said there are several options, including Anchorage and Wasilla, but did not provide a definitive answer.
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