Dunleavy rolls out package in first step of ‘war on criminals’

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about his proposals to revise the state’s criminal justice laws on Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state is going to declare war on criminals in the State of the State address Tuesday. He followed up on that Wednesday by proposing bills that would repeal most of what’s left of the criminal justice overhaul enacted three years ago.

Dunleavy is proposing reversing the cuts to sentences and bail that became law in Senate Bill 91 in 2016.

“If you are a criminal, this is the beginning of the end for your activities,” Dunleavy said. “If you’re going to assault people — if you’re going to engage in sexual assaults, physical assaults — this is going to be a very unsafe place for you. We’re not going to tolerate it at all.”

Dunleavy proposed four bills Wednesday. One would increase penalties for sex offenses. Another would reverse a range of reductions to sentences included in SB 91, as well as add a new category of crime called terroristic threatening. Another bill would increase bail and give judges more discretion in how people charged with crimes are released before trials. And the fourth bill reduces the use of parole.

“When people ask the question, ‘Well, are these folks going to go to jail?’ Yes, they’re going to go to jail,” Dunleavy said. “And, ‘Will we need to increase the number of beds in jails?’ Probably, yes. ‘Will we need to increase jails?’ Maybe. We’ll see. We’re not going to spare the resources that’ll be necessary to turn this around.”

Dunleavy also said during the State of the State address that he’ll propose three amendments to the Alaska Constitution. One would impose a new spending limit on state government. The other two would require a public vote for any changes to permanent fund dividends or taxes.

Dunleavy also said he would lower state spending to match the amount the state raises. He said his administration would grow the economy and restore trust in government.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Matt Claman said he will examine all of the bills with an eye toward whether they will improve public safety and make wise use of state spending. He expressed concern that Dunleavy is looking to cut spending that is intended to help people leaving prison re-enter communities without returning to crime.

But Claman noted Dunleavy wants to increase dividend payments and pay back the dividend cuts from the past three years.

“He wants to make all those payments and he wants to cut government,” Claman said. “And he wants to have unlimited spending for public safety. And all those things, when I add them up, I’m skeptical.”

Dunleavy said the bills are just the first step in his overall approach to criminal justice.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

Previous articleRevenue commissioner outlines a new direction for Alaska’s gas pipeline project
Next articleAlaska News Nightly: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019