Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, center, speaks about the House passing a crime bill during a press conference with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, center, speaks about the House passing a crime bill during a press conference with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska House reaches compromise with governor on crime bill

Bill takes harder line on dealing drugs, soliciting minors

The Alaska House of Representatives voted Wednesday to repeal and replace parts of Senate Bill 91, the controversial criminal justice legislation that some have pointed to as gasoline on the fire of the state’s current crime wave.

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, presented the bill basically as a compromise of many of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed criminal justice bills. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said on the House floor Wednesday that the bill increases sentencing ranges for many felony charges, imposes further protections regarding solicitation of minors and cracks down harder on drug dealers. At the same time, provisions in it are aimed to help people get back on their feet after struggling with substance abuse or being in prison.

Claman, Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and other members of the Majority said they worked closely with the Dunleavy administration on this legislation, and they thanked the administration for being open to the tweaks and changes they made.

[To repeal or not? Statewide crime commission hoping for feedback on SB 91]

The bill now goes to the Senate, with less than a week left in the session. Rep Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, repeatedly said to reporters Wednesday that time is a major concern. Wilson said the Senate Finance Committee might start looking at the bill as soon as Thursday morning.

Proponents of SB 91, which was passed two years ago, have said there hasn’t yet been enough time since then to really see it taking its full effect. Wilson acknowledged that they need more statistics to fully evaluate SB 91, but they knew that at least some parts of it were far too easy on those who have committed crimes.

“There’s compromises in this, because we still don’t have all the data necessary on the different programs that have been put in place, but at the same time, we knew changes needed to be done,” Wilson said.

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, center, speaks about the House passing a crime bill during a press conference with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, center, speaks about the House passing a crime bill during a press conference with Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, and Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, at the Capitol on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

For example, HB 46 broadens the scope of what can be classified as soliciting a minor, Claman said. Possessing tools commonly used in car thefts would now also be a crime. Someone can also be charged with an additional felony if they are charged with a felony and miss a court appearance, Claman explained.

One key difference between the governor’s proposals and HB 46, Wilson said, was that this bill puts a particular focus on those struggling with substance use disorders. The bill’s “two strikes and you’re out” clause, as lawmakers called it, imposes a misdemeanor on a person’s first two drug offenses, but it ramps up to a felony on the third charge. With this increase, there’s an incentive to enter treatment and get better.

“It’s smart on time and tough on crime,” Claman said, “and that’s really what the public wants us to do.”

[Dunleavy declares ‘war on criminals’ in State of State]

As indicated by the vote on the floor, there was far from unanimous approval of the bill. Some members of the House Minority condemned the Majority for pushing this bill too quickly and bringing up amendments at the last minute without enough time to prepare before the final vote.

Kopp responded to those concerns afterward by saying he believed all the parts of the bill were mentioned at least at some point during the committee process.

Kopp also said the communication between the House and Senate leaders has been “unprecedented,” in large part because constituents are demanding solutions to the state’s crime problems, the fiscal situation and the future of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

“When you’re in desperate times, people come together,” Kopp said, “and that’s what you’re seeing, is people coming together in this legislative body to answer really hard questions. I love to see it, because this Legislature is all in. People need to either be all in or get out, because times are too tough for being halfway right now.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


Alaska House reaches compromise with governor on crime bill

More in News

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Alexis Alamillo, of Anchorage, carries a sockeye salmon caught in a dipnet from the mouth of the Kenai River on Wednesday.
Kenai River dipnetting now open 24 hours a day

The liberalization of fishing regulation was effective starting Thursday evening

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

Most Read