Capitol Live: House rejects Senate’s changes to crime bill

Capitol Live: House rejects Senate’s changes to crime bill

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

3:15 p.m.

One interesting storyline: Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River (we had quotes from her much earlier today from her speech on the floor) sat in the gallery and watched the House vote down the Senate’s bill.

Here’s a shot of her, via Michael Penn:

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, listen from the House gallery, as representatives speak to concur with the senate crime bill at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, listen from the House gallery, as representatives speak to concur with the senate crime bill at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

— Alex McCarthy

2:53 p.m.

So, this bill hangs in purgatory with just one full day left in the normal session.

If I’m not mistaken, the Legislature can get a 10-day extension to the session. Or, of course, the Legislature or governor can call a special session.

Oh, and the size of the Permanent Fund Dividend also hasn’t been figured out. We’re going to be here a while longer, folks.

— Alex McCarthy

2:50 p.m.

Here’s the board:

The vote on HB 49.

The vote on HB 49.

2:45 p.m.

Quickly, the vote comes up whether to concur with the Senate’s version. By a slim 22-18 margin, the vote fails. This bill will not pass today. Two members of the Majority — Andy Josephson and Chris Tuck — voted to concur. The rest was along caucus lines.

— Alex McCarthy

2:40 p.m.

Rep. Chuck Kopp is the first Majority member to speak. He says the Senate added more than 20 pages to this bill and added hundreds of millions in spending to it. He says he strongly believes there needs to be a conference committee with members of both body to work out changes.

“Rubber-stamping changes of this magnitude is irresponsible,” Kopp says.

He says he won’t vote to concur because he wants to meet with members of the other body to make sure he understands everything in this bill.

Of course, session is supposed to end tomorrow. That conference committee would have to work mighty quickly to make deadline.

— Alex McCarthy

2:31 p.m.

Everyone who’s spoken since Wilson has been in favor (none of whom are members of the House Majority): Pruitt, Sara Rasmussen, David Eastman, Gabrielle LeDoux, Laddie Shaw, Sarah Vance, Sharon Jackson and Dave Talerico.

Vance says this version of the bill does a better job of giving victims a voice. She says friends of hers have not reported assaults because they didn’t have faith in the system to properly prosecute crimes. This bill, Vance says, will allow victims “to feel like we are fighting for them” and they’ll be more interested in coming forward.

— Alex McCarthy

2:26 p.m.

Minority Leader Lance Pruitt is stoked. He says this updated bill takes a much tougher stance on crime, but that it also compromises with the House version. For example, he says, the House wanted to make a person’s first two drug possession charges misdemeanors. The Senate makes the first one a misdemeanor and the second one a felony.

Pruitt says this goes much farther toward repealing the bulk of SB 91.

“That’s what the public has asked us to do,” he says.

He also says he and others got phone calls from public safety employees who urged lawmakers to concur with the Senate’s changes.

— Alex McCarthy

2:21 p.m.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, watches votes being tallied as the legislature rushes to finish at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, watches votes being tallied as the legislature rushes to finish at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The bill requires for electronic monitoring after a person’s first DUI, Wilson says.

She takes about five minutes to read all the changes. For the most part, it makes sentences more harsh and takes particular aims at drug and sex charges.

“There are a tremendous amount of differences,” Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon says. “The dialogue can go on for a very long time.”

— Alex McCarthy

2:20 p.m.

Rep. Tammie Wilson is tasked with detailing the changes between the House and Senate versions. She says she’s going to give it her best shot.

She says the bill, among other things, eliminates the marriage defense in the state’s law. Read more on what that means here. It also returns most drug charges to what they were before SB 91.

— Alex McCarthy

2:14 p.m.

The House is up and running. They’re starting to look at the Senate’s amended version of HB 49. Hold on to your gavels.

— Alex McCarthy

2:05 p.m.

The House is set to reconvene momentarily. Fireworks might ensue. Stay tuned.

— Alex McCarthy

12:50 p.m.

The House is at ease for lunch now. The crime bill still hasn’t hit the floor. I’d be willing to bet many of the representatives are eating their lunch while looking over the amendments to HB 49.

— Alex McCarthy

11:50 a.m.

Dunleavy (or the staff member who runs his social media) also takes to Twitter to put pressure on the House Majority on this bill.

— Alex McCarthy

11:43 a.m.

Lost in the hubbub of the crime debate, the Senate also voted unanimously to establish November as Alaska Native Heritage Month. That pushes House Bill 126, originally introduced by Rep. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk. The bill was endorsed by the Legislature’s first-ever House Tribal Affairs Committee.

Read more about the bill’s origins here.

Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), who chairs the House Tribal Affairs Committee, said this is a step forward for Alaska.

“Alaska Native cultures, languages, and traditions contribute to the cultural and economic fabric of our state,” Zulkosky said in a release. “Celebrating our rich and unique heritage is a way to bring all Alaskans together.”

The Legislature usually votes every year to designate November as Alaska Native Heritage Month, but this bill sets that designation in stone. That’s symbolic, Gray-Jackson said.

“By permanently recognizing this month,” Gray-Jackson said in the release, “we are echoing the permanency of Alaska Native Cultures.”

11:34 a.m.

The bill will now go to the House, which is currently in a floor session. It’s a pretty full agenda today, so it will be interesting to see if/when the House gets HB 49 to the floor.

Meanwhile, the House Minority is trying to put a little pressure on the House Majority, via Twitter:

— Alex McCarthy

11:07 a.m.

Here’s a press release from the Senate Majority on the bill:

— Alex McCarthy

10:45 a.m.

Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, speaks for about 20 minutes, and that’ll do it. Micciche has a few wrap-up thoughts, saying this bill helps Alaska go “from coddling criminals to protecting our children and grandchildren.”

The vote is unanimous, 20-0, in favor of the bill.

— Alex McCarthy

10:22 a.m.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, rises “to speak on behalf of those Alaskans who can’t speak for themselves, because they’re dead. Because they were murdered.” Oh my. That sends a bit of a shock wave through the room.

He’s speaking particularly about not allowing those convicted of murder to get credit for “‘good time” served in prison.

“You can be the nicest guy or woman in the prison system, and you’re not going to get any time off,” Stedman says.

Then he turns to the criticisms that this bill is expensive.

“It’s worth it,” Stedman says. “Keep them behind bars. Why let them out early? They’re the most egregious crimes against humanity, first- and second-degree murder.”

Stedman says forgiveness is between offenders and the lord, and that convicted murderers won’t get any sympathy from the senator from District R. Give this man a mic to drop. Goodness.

— Alex McCarthy

10:18 a.m.

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, agrees with Begich that she would have rather done this in smaller pieces.

Hughes says she believes this bill is even tougher on some crimes than the state was prior to SB 91: sex assault in the second and third degree, sexual abuse of a minor, indecent exposure, child pornography and indecent viewing of pictures.

— Alex McCarthy

10:10 a.m.

Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Tom Begich, both Anchorage Democrats, are speaking in reluctant support of this bill. They both think this bill will make a major difference and that they get Alaska on a path to being safer. Begich says he doesn’t think this will suddenly make Alaska a safe, placid place without any crime.

“It feels better to do something rather than nothing,” Begich says.

Begich says he’s going to vote for this (as it appears every senator will), but the cautions against continuing to do these massive crime bills in the future. Lumping everything together instead of diving into every issue can make for somewhat weak legislation, he warns.

— Alex McCarthy

10:05 a.m.

Kiehl also says that statistics show that the longer someone’s in prison, the more likely they are to reoffend. He refers to prison as being “criminal school” in some cases because long-term hardened criminals are in there and impart their wisdom on newer criminals.

“I think this bill’s probably not done, madame president,” Kiehl says, addressing Senate President Cathy Giessel.

He says he’s still voting for the bill, just to get the ball rolling forward.

“I hope there’s more work to come,” Kiehl says.

— Alex McCarthy

10:03 a.m.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, is speaking in opposition to the Senate’s version of HB 49. He again talks about how expensive this will be, and that the fiscal notes are optimistic when they calculate about $70 million in the first year. He says that doesn’t take into account that people will be in prison longer under this bill.

He also argues that this bill doesn’t do nearly enough to provide more treatment to those with substance use disorders.

“I think a lot of things get worse,” Kiehl says. “I think this bill in a lot of places will make more victims of crime.”

— Alex McCarthy

9:55 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, who has been reading stories that her constituents send her about crime in their lives, reads another one during this debate (which is more of people making grand statements instead of debating). The story involves a woman being held up in her own driveway by two men looking for money.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, rises to say that this bill is going to cost the state a lot of money (about $70 million in the first year, according to fiscal notes). Hoffman, an Alaska Native, says there’s one glaring omission this year.

“It is huge, it is something that needs to be addressed in next year’s look…” Hoffman says. “Also, I think I would implore the people of this body, the governor and the other body to take a serious look at the way Alaska Native people are being addressed in crime and why they are way over-represented in the legal system.”

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, says the laws are expensive but the value to Alaskans is “priceless.”

“It’s going to be expensive, but that expense is initial and the reality of it is, over time … the long-term evaluation proves that those costs can come down dramatically,” Micciche says.

— Alex McCarthy

9:45 a.m.

The Senate has been meeting on the floor this morning, starting at 8 a.m., debating amendments to this session’s main crime bill, House Bill 49. The bill in the House repealed parts of Senate Bill 91, but many believed that it didn’t go far enough.

The Senate has taken a harder line at this, making penalties for drug offenses more severe, among other changes. Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, has been one of the most vocal critics of SB 91 and the House’s process, and she stands today and passionately says that she thinks the Senate’s changes to this bill are going to make a difference.

“I am so proud of what happened in this body and what happened over in the House,” Reinbold says.

— Alex McCarthy

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