Alaska House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on crime bill

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP/KTUU) Alaska House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a sweeping crime package that members say would repeal and replace a Senate Bill 91.

The full House and Senate will still need to OK the package. The House looks likely to vote on the bill next Tuesday while the Senate plans to take it up on the day after Memorial Day.

The bill would impact almost all aspects of the criminal justice system. Measures include increasing sentencing ranges, toughening penalties for drug possession offenses and targeting sexual assault.

After the deal was announced, members across the aisle praised the bipartisanship needed to create a bill acceptable to both chambers.

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, thanked the public for weighing in and pressuring the Legislature to support an SB 91 repeal effort.

The agreement was announced on the first day of the special session called by Gov. Mike Dunleavy after lawmakers reached the constitutional limit of the regular session Wednesday with major issues unresolved, including a crime bill.

Details on the agreement's cost were being finalized but some legislators said it would go into the tens of millions of dollars.

An influx of new inmates would likely necessitate reopening Palmer Correctional Center. Some prisoners would also likely need to be shipped Outside but legislators couldn't say how many.

"The Legislature, and the House in particular, is committed to not having a large out of state prison population," said Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage. "But we're going to have to look at this one step at a time."

Lawmakers have said that attention must now turn to a drug addiction treatment program. The House majority signaled that could be added to a Capital Budget passed before the end of the special session.

The bill is intended to address public outcry over crime. It is one of the issues on the special session agenda. Dunleavy has also asked lawmakers to finish work on state spending plans and the Permanent Fund Dividend.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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