Capitol Live: Juneau representative’s bill passes unanimously

Capitol Live: Juneau representative’s bill passes unanimously

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

12:15 p.m.

This floor session is getting a little more interesting. Representatives are reflecting back on the wild joint session last Wednesday where lawmakers voted on the governor’s commissioner picks and appointees to boards and commissions.

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, says the hearing was “probably the most contentious since statehood.” The main instance that raised eyebrows was when Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, raised allegations of sexual harassment connected to Karl Johnstone, a candidate for the Board of Fisheries.

Other lawmakers, especially those on the other side of the aisle, were furious that Spohnholz brought these allegations up when they hadn’t been brought to the light in the vetting process previously. Reps. Ben Carpenter and Sarah Vance even issued an apology to the appointees.

Spohnholz speaks on the floor today, saying the Legislature needs a better process for allowing anonymous accusers to come forward. She says they could have executive sessions to allow accusers to bring allegations and to allow the accused a chance to respond.

— Alex McCarthy

12:10 p.m.

Here’s Story’s statement when she proposed the bill.

— Alex McCarthy

12:04 p.m.

On the House floor, Juneau Rep. Andi Story’s first bill just passed unanimously. With a couple wild cards in the House, a unanimous vote is a fairly rare sight.

Story’s bill, House Bill 71, tries to ease the transition for veterans looking for jobs after leaving the service. It allows veterans to substitute documented military experience for minimum qualifications for state classified positions.

— Alex McCarthy

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

9:51 a.m.

This has mostly been an informational session, as Department of Corrections personnel are now presenting about services they offer inmates.

— Alex McCarthy

9:33 a.m.

Mead answering questions about sentencing, particularly as it pertains to getting defendants into treatment. Rep. Ben Carpenter is getting fired up about the court system not necessarily taking into account whether treatment is available to a defendant. How can a court sentence someone to treatment, he asks, if the judge doesn’t necessarily know whether treatment is available or accessible?

Carpenter refers to this as a “broken system” and asks Mead where the break in the process is. Mead says it’s not a judge’s job to find treatment.

“The court has one role,” Mead says. “We’re not a department. Our role, a judge’s role, is to sentence a defendant appropriately.”

— Alex McCarthy

Nancy Mead, general counsel of the Alaska Court, testifies to the House Finance Committee as they work on House Bill 14 at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Nancy Mead, general counsel of the Alaska Court, testifies to the House Finance Committee as they work on House Bill 14 at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

9:23 a.m.

Long story short from the first 20 minutes of this meeting: HB 14 won’t cost much. Alaska State Troopers and the Department of Law both said this bill will not cost them anything, and the Public Defender’s Office said this will have an “undetermined” cost but that it shouldn’t be a major change.

The committee now moves on to a presentation on sentencing guidelines, from Alaska Court System General Counsel Nancy Mead.

— Alex McCarthy

9:20 a.m.

Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, one of the members of this committee, has been very vocal about wanting to get crime bills passed this session. She’s taken to Twitter multiple times about it, including once on her account and once via retweet yesterday.

— Alex McCarthy

9:05 a.m.

The House Finance Committee is discussing House Bill 14, which classifies the act of ejaculating on a person without consent as a sex crime. It also classifies strangulation as first-degree assault.

The first part of the bill was brought about by a 2018 case in which a man, Justin Schneider, choked a woman until she passed out and then ejaculated on her. He pleaded guilty to one felony charge and served no jail time beyond the time he spent waiting for trial. This became known as the “Schneider Loophole.

More on that case here.

— Alex McCarthy

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, chairs the House Finance Committee with Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, right, as they work on House Bill 14 at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, chairs the House Finance Committee with Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, right, as they work on House Bill 14 at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

8:45 a.m.

Both House and Senate finance committees are diving into crime bills today, and we’ll be getting started at the House meeting here in 15 minutes.

A recap of our coverage from yesterday:

The Senate Finance Committee heard a presentation from Legislative Finance Director David Teal, looking to the future of the governor’s budget plan and the House budget plan. According to Teal’s presentation, the House plan funds state services better and protects savings accounts better — but doesn’t allow for PFDs as large as Dunleavy’s plan. Here’s our story.

Rain Coast Data, along with Southeast Conference, conducted a survey of more than 300 Southeast business owners this month. The survey asked normal questions about the general business climate of Southeast, but also asked for business owners’ thoughts on the state’s fiscal situation. The results showed business owners and operators are at odds with many of Dunleavy’s plans. Here’s our story.

— Alex McCarthy

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