JUNEAU — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's administration Wednesday unveiled a half-dozen new public safety bills — among them proposals to steepen penalties for drug traffickers and to allow law enforcement to respond more quickly to new types of illicit substances.
"Other than the fiscal crisis, public safety is our state's top priority," said Jahna Lindemuth, Walker's attorney general, in an interview Wednesday.
The proposed bills include one to double the maximum prison sentence, and sharply increase the standard sentence, for people convicted of dealing substantial amounts of drugs.
That idea was endorsed last week by the nonpartisan commission that helps set criminal penalties, though one key committee chair who will likely be involved in vetting the legislation, Anchorage Democratic Rep. Matt Claman, said he has concerns about it.
Another bill would add the state health commissioner to that nonpartisan criminal justice commission. A fourth would allow the attorney general to list new banned substances herself, by emergency regulation, in order to more quickly restrict new drugs like synthetic opioids.
Walker is also proposing to allow judges to account for out-of-state criminal history when setting bail — something he says is currently left out of an algorithm that helps set bail.
A fifth bill would to double fees for certain criminal convictions and direct the resulting cash to police training.
And Walker also wants to allow more background checks for aspiring police officers, and people who are trying to take police training courses in Alaska.