ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Bill Walker signed into law the bill intended to solve problems with the state's sweeping crime reform effort of 2016, even though constitutional questions have been raised about its latest replacement.
Walker signed S.B. 54 on Sunday, with most of its provisions to go into effect at 12:01 Monday morning. The move leaves in place a last-minute change that's raising questions.
The change came to the sentencing range for Class C felonies, like vehicle theft. It changed the sentencing range to zero to 2 years for a first-time defendant, but that's the same sentencing range as a Class B felony, which would include a crime like robbing a store owner at gunpoint.
An attorney for the Legislature has already said the new approach may be a due process violation because the sentencing ranges would not be proportional to the level of the crime, but in a Department of Law review released by the Governor's office Monday, the Department said "It is likely that an affected offender will challenge the legality of this sentencing framework. However, such a change is both well within the Legislature's prerogative and is likely constitutionally sound if challenged."
Speaker of the House, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, told Channel 2 earlier this month that if the provision is found to be unconstitutional, the sentencing range for a C felony would likely revert back to what it was under Senate Bill 91.
Walker's office also highlighted changes to the law for theft in the fourth degree, violating conditions of release, mandatory probation for sex offenders, and sex trafficking adjustments.