As special session starts, House puts criminal justice bill on fast track

Public testimony on Senate Bill 54 continues at 6 p.m. tonight

  • Rep. George Rauscher, R-Palmer, left, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, center, and Rep. Jason Grenn, NA-Anchorage, greet each other on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legisture on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
  • Rep. Daniel Ortiz, NA-Ketchikan, left, Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, center, and Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, greet each other on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legisture on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
  • Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, center, and Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, speak before gaveling in on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legisture on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
  • Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, left, and Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, speak before gaveling in on the first day of the fourth Special Session of the 30th Alaska Legisture on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

It started slowly, but the fourth special session of the 30th Alaska Legislature appeared to be on a fast track by the end of its first day on Monday.

Lawmakers in the House moved rapidly to advance a measure that aims to roll back a portion of last year’s criminal justice reform known Senate Bill 91. In a 25-12 vote, the House advanced Senate Bill 54 to the House Judiciary Committee, which began taking public comment before the day ended.

Public comment on SB 54 was taken on Monday night in the Capitol.

“I think there’s an emphasis by the Legislature on getting SB 54 heard and passed as swiftly as we reasonably can,” Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, told the Empire.

As signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016, SB 91 encouraged alternatives to jail — probation, electronic monitoring and drug treatment, for example — for nonviolent crime. The bill was intended to reduce the number of Alaskans who return to jail after being released once. In turn, that would reduce the chance that the state will need to build another prison, saving millions.

Read the rest of this story by the Juneau Empire here.

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