SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

House votes to repeal and replace Senate Bill 91

Votes to Enshrine Marital Rape in Alaska Law

Posted, Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN


May 11, 2019
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - The Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal and replace Senate Bill 91.

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Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy introduced a suite of crime-fighting bills in January 2019 to repeal and replace SB91 and close a series a loopholes that have allowed criminals to prey on Alaska’s most vulnerable. His package represented the next step in fulfilling a promise made to repeal and replace SB91, which took away critical discretion from judges and eliminated tools for prosecutors and law enforcement to properly respond to Alaska’s crime wave.

The Governor's four bills focused on on the following categories: (1) Sex Offenses, (2) Classification and Sentencing, (3) Pretrial (i.e., Bail), (4) Probation and Parole.

The Alaska House Majority Coalition said, House Bill 49, which passed with a 24-14 vote, would enact changes that are tough on criminals and give police and prosecutors the tools they need to make Alaska safe. At the same time, the legislation helps victims receive justice and maintains a commitment to enacting policy changes based on objective information, data, and input from police officers, prosecutors, and public defenders.

“Alaskans spoke loud and clear, and we responded by repealing and replacing Senate Bill 91,” said Rep. Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole). “Everything in House Bill 49 is tough on criminals and particularly targets repeat offenders.”

“A key tenet of criminal justice reform is continually looking for improvements to our laws and ways to make Alaska’s communities safer. This legislation takes many positive steps in the right direction,” said Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “In addition to this bill, we continue to work on other proposed policy changes, and the House Majority budget invests in public safety and continues our commitment to making wise use of public safety funds.”

Quoting an Alaska House Republicans' news release, the House Majority killed efforts to return Alaska’s criminal law and sentencing regulations to what they were prior to SB 91, preserving the status quo of failed policies and ensuring that criminals continue to receive preferential treatment in Alaska.

“[Wednesday], the House Majority demonstrated once again that doing the important work Alaskans elected them to do was less important than other things” said Rep. Cathy Tilton (R-Chugiak/Mat-Su). “We started with a bill that would have repealed and replaced SB 91 and the misguided policies that led to the crime-riddled environment we have in Alaska. However, the adoption of their amendments diluted important progress. The Majority Caucus seems to only agree on who gets the biggest offices – not with making all Alaskans safer.”

The House Majority voted down twelve amendments that would have ensured the bill kept it’s intended mission intact, including one offered by Rep. Sara Rasmussen (R-Anchorage) that would have ended Marital Defense in cases of sexual assault and rape in Alaska, and one by Rep. Laddie Shaw (R-Anchorage) that would have returned all felony sentences to what they were prior to the passage of SB 91. 

Criminal Division Director John Skidmore clarified that the Alaska Departmen of Law continues to advocate for removal of this archaic law. Skidmore said,"It is unfortunate that some members of the House voted to uphold this archaic law based on a misunderstanding of what I said. So let me be clear. Sexual contact without freely given, informed consent is sexual assault. The marriage defense should be repealed to protect those who cannot protect themselves," said Director Skidmore."

Skidmore said he told the committee that he would have advised his grandfather that sexual relations would be inappropriate with his grandmother experiencing advanced dementia at that point because he was a stranger to her. Currently the law allows one spouse to engage in sexual activity with a mentally incapable spouse without their consent. This is wrong said Skidmore. "Repealing this outdated law will not impact intimacy between spouses; it will just afford spouses the protections against sexual assault that everyone else enjoys."

“Despite claims that the version of HB 49 passed by the House Majority is in line with what Governor Dunleavey has proposed, nothing could be further from the truth,” said Rep. DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer). “This is not the repeal and replace that Alaskans have asked for, but rather an attempt to get by on small fixes that ultimately will not lead to a safer Alaska. We now, once again, have to rely on the Senate to correct the mistakes of the House Majority.”

Added Rep. Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage), the House Minority Leader: “We were given very large amendment packets yesterday that contained sweeping changes to the House Finance version of HB 49, and were asked to vote without even being allowed time to read them. Those of us who asked for the simple courtesy of a short recess to ensure we understood these amendments were turned down because the Majority wanted to push them through without anyone being able to question whether they were actually a good idea."

Pruitt said, "Furthermore, the Speaker limited debate by Minority members to two minutes, a rule that Majority members were not required to adhere to despite several points of order questioning the selective enforcement. Yesterday was a mockery of the legislative process and an absolute disservice to the people of Alaska.”

Below are some of the most significant changes H.B. 49 would repeal and replace Senate Bill 91 into state law, if the bill passes the Senate as-is and receives final approval from the governor:

  • The presumptive sentencing ranges for Class A and Class B felony offenses would increase, as would the maximum sentence for all Class A and Class B misdemeanors.

  • The mandatory probation sentence for first- and second-time drug convictions is abolished. For the most dangerous illegal drugs like heroin, other opioids, and methamphetamine, judges would be able to sentence first- and second-time drug possession offenders up to one year in jail. A third drug possession conviction would result in a felony conviction punishable by up to 2 years in prison.  Any drug offender who is trafficking or distributing these types of drugs is subject to much higher felony penalties and longer prison sentences.

  • At the request of law enforcement officials, a new crime is established to help combat motor vehicle thefts: Possession of Motor Vehicle Theft Tools. In order to be convicted, the defendant would have to both possess tools commonly used to steal a vehicle and demonstrate an intent to steal a vehicle.

  • Police and prosecutors would be allowed to aggregate the amounts stolen by a defendant within a 6-month period in order to hold serial thieves accountable.

  • Under current law, not all sex offenders who are registered in another jurisdiction are required to enter the Alaska sex offender registry when they move here. H.B. 49 closes that loophole. The bill also increases the maximum period of probation for sex offenders and bars sex offenders from receiving good time credit while in prison or on parole.

  • The crime of second- and third-degree Escape is expanded to make it a felony to cut off an ankle monitor while on house arrest.

  • Penalties for Failure to Appear are increased: defendants who fail to appear in court while facing a felony charge will receive an additional felony charge, and those facing a misdemeanor charge who fail to appear in court will receive an additional misdemeanor charge.

  • Defendants would no longer be eligible to receive credit for time served for pre-trial electronic monitoring. 

  • A new felony crime is established so individuals who solicit or produce indecent pictures of minors are held accountable.
  • Timely testing of sexual assault examination kits is required.
  • Release-from-prison plans are required for all defendants who serve 90 days or more. The plans will be required to address substance abuse treatment plans and re-entry services. 

  • The presumption that courts will follow the pre-trial risk assessment analysis is repealed and replaced with a requirement that courts to consider the pre-trial risk assessment analysis in making bail release decisions.
  • The incentive for earned compliance credit is changed to 30 days (served) for 10 days (earned) for good conduct on probation and parole.

House Bill 49 has been sent to the Senate for their consideration.

The 2019 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn by Wednesday, May 15, 2019.



Source of News:

Alaska House Majority Coalition

Alaska House Republicans


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