This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee began going over four public safety bills proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in January.
The first bill on the docket was Senate Bill 32, which would institute more severe sentences that got reduced as part of SB 91. SB 91 is a sweeping criminal justice reform bill aimed at reducing long sentences for offenders and cutting down on recidivism rates.
Attorney General Designee Kevin Clarkson, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Designee Amanda Price and Department of Corrections Commissioner Designee Nancy Dahlstrom spoke about the bill to the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Clarkson said this suite of bills — SB 32 along with SB 33, SB 34 and SB 35 — “resets the stage” for addressing crime in the state. SB 33 gives more power to judges in pretrial situations, SB 34 makes changes to the parole system and SB 35 cracks down on sexual assaults.
People will have a chance to call in and provide comment on SB 32 on Saturday, Committee Chair Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, announced at the close of Wednesday’s meeting. That hearing will happen 1 p.m. Saturday. People can call their local Legislative Information Office to call in. Those can be found at akleg.gov/lios.php.
During Wednesday’s hearing, legislators weren’t shy about their own opinions. Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, spoke passionately about her disdain for SB 91 and the rising crime rates in the state.
“It’s a state that I don’t recognize after living here for 54 years,” Reinbold said.
Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, remained fairly reserved with his comments, but posed a few questions. He asked Clarkson what makes him believe these bills will reduce crime rates. Clarkson said he can’t guarantee anything, but said Alaskans are demanding changes and this administration is listening.
“Something needs to be done,” Clarkson said. “The public wants something done, and rolling back to pre-SB 91 seems like an appropriate step to take. The view that the governor has, the sense from the public is that they’re not willing to continue to be the guinea pig to find out if SB 91 would eventually ever have the intended effects it was supposed to have.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.