In this file photo, Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, asks a question as Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Mike Barnhill, policy director for the OMB. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

In this file photo, Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, asks a question as Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget and Mike Barnhill, policy director for the OMB. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Legislators aim to get crime legislation right

It may take more time.

Improving public safety remains a consensus priority among legislators, but senators from both sides of the aisle want to be deliberate in their approach to crime reform.

Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, who chairs the State Affairs Committee, said the Senate is breaking these crime bills down into “more digestible chunks” while in committee, as opposed to massive bills that overhaul the state’s criminal code, like Senate Bill 91 did. SB 91 is a controversial criminal reform bill passed into that that many have criticized for being too lenient and contributing to Alaska’s high crime rates.

“One of the intents is to slow this down as much as we need to,” Shower said during a Wednesday press conference, “to make sure we are not just rubber stamping bills that come from the administration, to make sure we’re taking a good hard look at things that need to be fixed.”

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, agreed and said they should be “really careful” as they hammer out crime reform legislation.

“It’s so important to get every word of a criminal bill right, otherwise someone could walk free,” Kiehl said.

Kiehl pointed to Sen. Peter Micciche’s Senate Bill 12, which aims to close the “Schnieder Loophole.” According to a release from Soldotna Republican’s office, the bill would close the “Schneider Loophole,” which refers to the Justin Schneider case in Anchorage. Schneider strangled a woman until she passed out and then he ejaculated on her. He pleaded guilty to a single felony charge and served no additional jail time. His crime fell outside the criminal code’s definition of sexual assault and he walked out of court with no jail time. The Schneider case ignited outrage throughout the state.

Kiehl said the Senate Judiciary Committee was about to introduce a substitute bill for SB 12 today, but at the last minute it was decided the language was not quite right. The new version of the bill might be introduced Friday instead. As a result public testimony on the SB 12 has been postponed until the new bill is introduced.

With a deliberate approach to criminal reform what can Alaskans expect this year?

[Here’s a look at what Dunleavy’s four new crime bills would do]

“I think the bill to close the sex crime loopholes (SB 35) goes this year,” Kiehl said. “Each of the others (SB 32-34) have some major implications.”

Kiehl noted that crime reform can be expensive, so in passing legislation, the most “important thing” is “actually reducing crime.”

“We have to make sure we’re reducing crime, not (passing legislation) on knee-jerk reactions,” Kiehl said.

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for t​​he Week of Sept. 23

Here’s what to expect this week.

Visitors look at the Mendenhall Glacier near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in August. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Shutdown disruptions would be widespread in Juneau

What the looming federal shutdown could mean for the capital city.

New signs were placed this week to accompany the 12 totem poles raised along Juneau’s downtown waterfront. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
New signs along downtown Totem Pole Trail explain significance of each piece

Details such as meaning of crests carved on totems, clans linked to artists at site and online.

This is a photo of the front page of the Juneau Empire on Sept. 21, 1995. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Empire Archives: Juneau’s history for the week of Oct. 1

Three decades of capital city coverage.

Snow covers Mount Stroller White, a 5,112-foot peak beside Mendenhall Glacier, with Mount McGinnis seen to the left. (Photo by Laurie Craig)
Rooted in Community: Stroller White — a man and a mountain

One of the most frequently spoken names in Juneau is Stroller White.… Continue reading

A person departs Bartlett Regional Hospital on July 26, a day after a board of directors meeting raised issues about the hospital’s leadership and quality of care, with then-CEO David Keith resigning a week later. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
New Bartlett CEO has lots of experience with mergers, transitions as hospital confronts struggles

Meanwhile former CEO still getting paid for post-resignation ‘transition’ despite leaving the state.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Former Coppa Cafe co-owner Marc Wheeler and current owner Maddie Kombrink smile for a picture at the downtown cafe Wednesday morning. Last week the cafe celebrated its 10-year anniversary in Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
‘It’s a wonderful milestone’: Coppa Cafe celebrates a decade of service in Juneau

Ten years is just the beginning, says current and past owners.

Most Read