House passes sweeping crime bill

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, attend a House majority press availability on Wednesday. Wilson and Claman were among 24 House members who voted to pass House Bill 49, shortly before the availability. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska House passed a wide-ranging revision to the state’s criminal justice laws on Wednesday.

House Bill 49 would mark the third time the Legislature changed major provisions of the controversial law known as Senate Bill 91.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, a North Pole Republican, supported the bill.

“What you have before you is a bill that repeals and replaces the harmful provisions of SB 91,” she said. “We’ve heard from Alaskans, from our constituents, that they’ve had enough.”

The bill would increase sentences for some sex and drug offenses. It also would ensure more rape kits are tested. And it would require that people who move to Alaska be registered as sex offenders if they’re registered in other states.

All but one minority-caucus Republican opposed the bill. Minority leader Rep. Lance Pruitt voted against it. He said it wouldn’t go far enough to repeal SB91.

“The people did not ask us to come back here and to try to give them the image that we cared and we had heard,” he said. “They asked us to come back here and fix the problem.”

But overall the legislation had support from the majority caucus, which has 15 Democrats, seven Republicans and two independents.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Matt Claman said the bill is balanced, by increasing penalties but leaving funding for drug offenders to get treatment.

“This bill, I believe, strikes the very kind of balance that the public has asked us to do when we come down here — to find a balance between getting tougher on sentences, but not getting so tough that we take out the potential resources to help people who really need treatment for their addictions,” Claman said.

The House passed the bill by a 24 to 14 vote. One majority caucus member, Fairbanks Democrat Grier Hopkins, voted against it. One minority caucus member, Nikiski Republican Ben Carpenter, voted for it. Anchorage Republican Gabrielle LeDoux, who recently left the House majority, also voted for it. North Pole Republican Mark Neuman and Anchorage Democrat Chris Tuck were absent. 

Dunleavy said Monday the bill points the state in the right direction. He expressed concern that amendments would “water this bill down.”

The House amended the bill to reduce some of the increased penalties in the bill. But amendment sponsors said Dunleavy’s administration cooperated on the changes.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

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

Previous articleI am a Fiddlehead Forager | INDIE ALASKA
Next articleWhy is the US so far behind in the Arctic? Clues emerge at congressional hearing