The Anchorage Assembly will hold an unusual Saturday public hearing on a resolution calling for changes to Senate Bill 91, the 2016 criminal justice reform law at the heart of a heated public debate about crime.
Assembly Chair Dick Traini said he couldn't recall the Assembly holding a public hearing on a resolution that relates to state legislation. But he said he scheduled the weekend hearing because most Anchorage residents would not be able to fly to Juneau for a special session called by Gov. Bill Walker, who has asked lawmakers to revise the law.
"There's a lot of public sentiment out there that may or may not be reality," Traini said in an interview Wednesday. "But the public still needs a chance to tell the elected officials how they feel about this, right or wrong."
The hearing is set to start at 9 a.m. in the Assembly chambers in the Loussac Library and could last up to four hours.
Later in October, the Legislature will consider changes to SB 91. In Anchorage and around the state, the law has become a flashpoint in the response to a spike in crime the past two years, particularly property crime.
Police and prosecutors assert the law has made the criminal justice system less effective. Criminal defense attorneys and groups like the Alaska Civil Liberties Union say there is no direct evidence the policies have led to increased crime or allowed repeat offenders to avoid punishment.
A draft of the Assembly resolution co-sponsored by Traini and West Anchorage Assemblyman Eric Croft, an attorney and former prosecutor, calls for more money for alcohol and drug treatment and probation services. It also recommends reversing changes to drunk-driving monitoring programs and to limits on probation terms for misdemeanor offenses.
The resolution has no legal authority and is effectively a letter to state lawmakers expressing Anchorage's views. Copies of the latest version will be made available at Saturday's meeting.
Not all Assembly members are on board with it. Assemblywoman Amy Demboski of Chugiak-Eagle River said she planned to introduce a competing resolution that goes much further, calling for a full repeal of SB 91.