District 25 Friday Update: Legislation Passing and Dying

This week my office wanted to provide you an exciting update on two pieces of legislation that have been of real interest to me and many constituents this session.

Public Safety Update – Steps Made to Bolster Justice System

The Legislature took a step toward improving public safety today with the passage of House Bill 312. This bill included a few measures that target some of the loopholes in our criminal laws:
  • Gives judges back their decision-making authority in determining whether a defendant can be released from custody before their trial;
  • Bolsters tools used by judges to consider out of state criminal history when determining a defendant’s ability to be released before trial;
  • Strengthens the pre-trial release assessment for those charged with vehicle theft and other crimes;
  • Gives Alaska’s Attorney General the authority to criminalize ever-changing, dangerous new controlled substances;
  • Increases monetary penalties imposed for felonies, misdemeanors, and violations and puts the funding into public safety needs; and
  • Provides much-needed tools to help police and prosecutors reduce crimes against our doctors and nurses.

This is not a full repeal of SB 91, which our office continues to believe is the right way to truly address the crime wave in Alaska. However, this does target specific weaknesses in our justice system, and will help law enforcement, prosecutors and judges better provide for public safety. We will keep you posted as we continue to fight to see critical changes to the way Alaska addresses and prevents crime.

House Bill 336 Passes Legislature!

Today, the Alaska Legislature passed House Bill 336, otherwise known as the “Supported Decision-Making Agreements Act.” This bill, which I introduced and worked on in conjunction with the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education, provides a new tool for elderly Alaskans and those experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities to live happier, fuller, more self-directed and individualized lives.

I introduced this bill to address the considerable growth of full guardianship, which takes away a person’s rights to make decisions about their life and has doubled in our state over the last seven years. Without others options, like supported decision-making agreements, to full guardianship many adult Alaskans who have the ability and wherewithal to make decisions for themselves are being placed under the state’s jurisdiction and having their inherent rights to self-determination stripped away unnecessarily.

House Bill 336 provides a clear and meaningful alternative to full guardianship for thousands of Alaskans. The bill has widespread support throughout the disability community, and received praise from advocates for elderly Alaskans. Legislation enabling supported decision-making agreements is spreading throughout the U.S., with both Wisconsin and Tennessee enacting similar laws within the last year.

The evidence is clear: when individuals are empowered to make their decisions, direct their lives, and gain independence they become healthier, more fulfilled, are more likely to be employed and are better able to recognize and resist abuse. House Bill 336 will Alaskans do just that. The bill passed the Alaska Legislature with a cumulative vote of 58-1 and now heads to Governor Walker’s desk for his signature.

 

Update on Senate Bill 76: Alcohol Rewrite and Impact on Small Alaskan Businesses

We heard from hundreds of Alaskans this week regarding a proposed change to laws regarding breweries and distilleries. The changes would have limited the amount of their own products that local breweries and distilleries could serve to customers. This would have pulled the rug out from under small businesses and diminished local job opportunities.
Your voices made a big impact. The sponsor has now withdrawn the measure from consideration, and new limitations on the brewery and distillery industries are no longer in play this year.
We are so grateful for the engagement and advocacy of community members who demonstrated that Alaskans want more – not less – local hire, economic freedom and thriving local businesses. Your Legislature should be working to market our state, encourage entrepreneurship and stimulate small businesses. Those continue to be our office’s priorities, and we are grateful for the work of Alaskans in sharing the goal of a stronger economy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our update. Please stay in touch!
All my best,

 


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