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 the Week of May 28

Here’s what to expect this week.

Michael Ruppert inspects percussion instrumentation that’s part of the setup for the 1928 Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ in the State Office Building. Ruppert, co-owner of Rose City Organ Builders in Oregon, spent two days this with with fellow co-owner Christopher Nordwall tuning and restoring the organ to playable condition. The instrument has not been played since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but local officials and musicians are hoping to schedule a lunchtime concert during the next couple of weeks. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Clearing the old pipes

Tuners revive 1928 Kimball organ in State Office Building; lunchtime concerts may resume next week

Michele Elfers, deputy director of CBJ Parks and Recreation, speaks to about 15 residents who attended a public meeting discussing the final version of the Montana Creek master plan at the Trail Mix Inc. shop Wednesday evening. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
The Montana Creek master plan is finalized — now what?

Management officials emphasize openness to future ideas not included in plan.

Tuckerman Babcock hosts a rally in Soldotna during his campaign for state Senate in October of 2022. On Wednesday he was appointed to the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Babcock has a long and controversial political history in Alaska, including illegally demanding hundreds of state employees sign loyalty oaths to Dunleavy or be fired. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tuckerman Babcock gets recess appointment to UA board by Dunleavy

Selection of controversial political strategist comes after Legislature’s rejection of Bethany Marcum.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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

Christopher Koch, music director of the Juneau Symphony, conducts a rehearsal of the theme from the 1989 “Batman” movie in the auditorium at Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé in preparation for two concerts this weekend at the school featuring familiar soundtrack compositions from films with “showdown” plot lines. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
A final ‘Showdown’ for Juneau Symphony’s 60th season

Songs from epic confrontation films and an original by Taylor Vidic scheduled this weekend at JDHS.

This image shows the cover of Kate Troll’s new book “All In Due Time: A Memoir of Siblings, Genealogy, Secrets and Love.” Troll will be hosting a book signing at Hearthside Books on Friday evening. Her event is one of the many First Friday events scheduled for June. (Cirque Press)
Here’s what’s happening for First Friday

New artistic exhibitions, LGBTQ+ events and more.

Most Read