The 31st Legislative Session convenes next Tuesday, and more than 40 prefiled bills from the Alaska House and Senate were posted to Akleg.gov on Monday.
Juneau’s freshman class of legislators, all Democrats, have not filed any bills. Sen.-elect Jesse Kiehl, and Reps.-elect Sara Hannan and Andi Story will be sworn into office on Tuesday.
The lack of local input does not make the proposed legislation any less compelling, though. Two proposals would directly impact the legislative session and subsequently Juneau.
House Bill 2, introduced by Sutton Republican Rep. George Rauscher, would move the regular legislative sessions to the municipality of Anchorage and be held in the Legislative Information Office. And yes, Anchorage would be the new capital. HB 2 would allow for special sessions to be held anywhere in the state, with the governor making that location official by way of proclamation.
Kiehl laughed at the idea.
“Unfortunately, some bad ideas don’t seem to go away. When you run the numbers it has never made sense,” Kiehl said of moving the capital to Anchorage.
House Joint Resolution 2, introduced by Rep. Matt Claman, proposes to limit the legislative session to a 90 days by way of an amendment to the Alaska Constitution. The Anchorage Democrat believes this could save this state money and limit what he calls “personal legislation” or non-essential legislation.
Voters approved a 90-day session in 2006, and that took effect in 2008. However, the 90-day session deadline has been missed and ignored during the last decade. That’s because the Alaska Constitution limits the session to 120 days and the Alaska Constitution is the final authority on the matter.
Legislators are taking aim at Alaska’s notorious sexual violence problem too.
Senate Bill 12, introduced by Republican Sen. Peter Micciche of Soldotna, would tighten up Alaska’s criminal code where sexual assault is concerned. According to a release from Micciche’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.
Micciche’s bill would classify unwanted contact with semen as sexual assault. It would also disqualify a person’s time spent on an ankle bracelet or other electronic monitoring device as a credit toward time served for a sexual assault conviction. The bill would also add more gravity to strangling a victim to the point of unconsciousness, by reclassifying this charge as first-degree assault.
Sen.-elect Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat, introduced Senate Bill 3 to update Alaska’s harassment laws. Among the proposed changes is reclassifying harassment in the first degree to a class C felony. This is currently a misdemeanor, and it is one of the charges that were dropped in Schneider’s plea deal.
The bill would add a new aggravated factor which can add to a defendant’s sentence — if the “defendant committed the offense for the defendant’s sexual gratification” — to non-sexual assault felonies too.
Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, has produced two pieces of legislation to protect the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend formula through Alaska Constitutional amendments. This would require a two-thirds vote majority from both houses.
His Senate Bill 13 would provide a supplemental dividend check amounting to about $3,740. Wielechowski sees this as back pay for the dividends that were cut down to $1,100 and $1,600 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. To qualify for this supplemental dividend, an Alaskan must have received their 2016, 2017, or 2018 dividend and also qualify for the 2019 dividend.
• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258.