Why are we Still Here?
Crime Bill Passes House, Congratulations UA Graduates
Rep. Kawasaki speaking in the House about needs of Fairbanks.
Rep. Kawasaki speaks on SB 91 in the Legislature’s Temporary Location
It’s Day 110 and many of us are still working in Juneau. Construction is underway at the Capitol so we moved in to a small rental near downtown. After 4 days of debate, the House voted on SB 91, the “Crimnibus” bill that overhauls the criminal justice system in a way Alaska has not seen since 1978. Below is an update about this legislation and why we’re still here.
Criminal Justice Bill to Pass the House
SB 91, sponsored by North Pole Republican Senator John Coghill, makes sweeping changes to the criminal justice system. The legislature has seen a costly growth in prison population and very high rates or repeat offenses. SB 91 is a first step towards a cost-effective system that protects citizens and still reforms offenders. The bill creates a system where bail is determined by the risk of the offender to the community and how likely they are to show up to court rather than whether they can pay to get out of jail. The bill also makes some key reinvestments to treat drug addiction and substance abuse in order to prevent reoffending.
Senator Coghill worked very hard with Senator Johnny Ellis to make sure SB91 with a goal to make Alaskans safer, save money and reduce recidivism and I applaud their efforts. While I generally support this bill, I have some major concerns about parts of the bill that I hope the Legislature will address in the future.
Those on pre-trial Electronic Monitoring can now receive up to 360 days of credit towards their sentence, meaning that a person convicted of kidnapping or sexual assault could serve almost no time at all on a first offence. The House Finance Committee version of the bill had lowered this credit to 120 days.
New misdemeanor sentencing takes away the discretion of a judge and reduces all sentences from a maximum of 10 days, to only a maximum 90. A person who was convicted of domestic abuse who later calls or threatens their victim would only receive a maximum of 10 days in jail.
We are now reducing crimes like watching a dog fight and gambling from misdemeanors to a maximum fine of $1,000, which seems like a significant move towards decriminalization.
Administrative Parole would allow first-time felons to automatically be released after serving just one-quarter of their sentence. I have deep reservations about simply letting people out of prison early with no hearing to consider their risk of reoffending. I am not certain allowing individuals into a parole system whose caseworkers are already overworked will improve community safety, especially when our halfway houses already have offenders walking away and escaping custody, taking up police time and risking the safety of our communities and officers.
The bill will be in final sometime early next week.
Why are we still here?
Rep. Kawasaki spoke with KTVA about Oil and Gas taxes
While springtime in Juneau is beautiful, I am disappointed the Legislature failed to honor the voter initiative that limits the regular session to 90 days. While we are within the constitutional limit of 120 days, it’s clear there is still a ways to go.
In my last E-News, the reported that Republican leadership had no plan in place to agree on a budget or how to fund it while the state faces a $4.1 billion deficit. I am frustrated that not much has changed.
While the House Rules Committee put forward a new draft of HB 247 for oil and gas tax credit reform, it just doesn’t go far enough as we face extreme fiscal restraint. The public can’t be the ones who subsidize oil companies at $1,000 per resident, the same amount being proposed to cut from your PFD. Alaska needs a balanced approach to incentivize smaller producers while reining in expensive subsidies and making sure Alaska gets its fair share for our valuable resources.
Congratulations to our University Graduates!
I would like congratulate the University of Alaska Fairbanks students who will be graduating this weekend. Over the years, I supported issues and programs such as the UA Scholars program, the Alaska Performance Scholarship and fought against cutting the University budget. I will continue to advocate on behalf of these programs for all Alaskan students.
UAF’s Commencement will be on Sunday, May 8th at the Carlson Center at 1:20 pm.
Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8
Happy Mother’s Day to all you hard working mothers out there, and especially to my own mom, Virginia Kawasaki.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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