Crime has been on the rise in our state and its past time to address it. In 2017 and again this year, the legislature made substantial revisions to SB 91. This past session we also put more funding towards public safety, adding $12 million to get more troopers on the streets. We also increased funding for opioid and other substance abuse treatment by $12 million. There is much more to be done to combat the crime epidemic we are experiencing but I am encouraged with the steps made this session.
At the bill signing for HB 312 – the “minibus” criminal bill update.
Revisions to SB 91 (the Crime Bill)
This legislature addressed problems in SB 91 with 3 major fix it bills – SB 54, SB 55 and HB 312. During debate on SB 54, a repeal amendment was offered, and I voted for it, but it did not have enough support from my colleagues. While there is still much left to be fixed in SB 91, the above bills have provisions which are crucial steps in the right direction such as:
- Including out of state convictions in pre-trial release decisions;
- Giving judges more discretion and removing mandatory release requirements;
- Providing the Attorney General with the ability to criminalize new, dangerous drugs through emergency regulation;
- Increasing monetary penalties for those with felonies, misdemeanors and violations and using the money for public safety funding;
- Adding possible jail time for first time shoplifters; and
- Adding up to one year in jail for Class C felonies including car theft
Sexual Assault training and exam kits
Alaska’s sexual crime rates are three times higher than the national average, and child sexual
assault rates are six times the national average. In 2017 an audit found that Alaska has approximately 3500 untested rape kits. HB 31 addresses this serious concern in 3 ways:
- Requires an annual audit of untested sexual assault kits, so that victims’ evidence does not continue to be left on a shelf, and so that law enforcement can prioritize efforts to address the full scope of the backlog;
- Puts in statute a victim-centered approach to report sexual assault; and
- Requires 12 hours of sexual assault training at Alaska police academies.
I met Blazer, the police dog at the PFD Crimes restitution bill signing.
Survivors’ benefits for public safety officers killed in the line of duty
I co-sponsored this bill which provides spouses and children of public safety officers who have been killed in the line of duty with secure, stable health coverage. Police officers risk their lives every day to ensure the safety of the public; it is thus only fitting that we provide safety and security for their families after they have sacrificed for our communities. I co-sponsored a similar bill in the legislature in 2015. Sometimes it takes more than one term for legislation to be enacted.
PFD Crimes restitution bill
In Alaska, those serving time have their PFDs garnished. Those funds are used in a variety of ways including paying for prisoner healthcare and funding reparations to victims of violent crimes. The Violent Crimes Compensation Board reviews cases and helps make reparations to victims of violent crimes. Note this does not take the place of criminals paying restitution but it is designed to provide quicker financial relief to crime victims. This legislation reprioritized the use of the funds from garnished PFDs and makes clear that victims of violent crimes will be paid first before prisoner healthcare. I co-sponsored this bill.
Probation and Parole
People released from prison who re-establish a life with ties to the community are less likely to re-offend. This bill requires that probation check-ins be flexible and take into account a probationer or parolees work schedule, so as to allow the probationer or parolee every opportunity to meaningfully maintain a job. I co-sponsored this legislation.
Confining Vehicle Loads
This bill, which I co-sponsored, establishes standards for load securement of all types of materials. It also raises the punishment for failure to secure a load from a violation which is simply a traffic fine to a misdemeanor. I believe this law will make Alaska’s roads safer.
Prohibit driver cell phone use in School Zones
This bill allows cities to regulate cell phone usage in School Zones. I co-sponsored this bill to provide flexibility to municipalities to make our children safer. No one should be jeopardized by a careless driver on the phone.