FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2016
Senate Democrats Urge Swift Action on Legislation Updating Uniform Code of Military Justice
JUNEAU – With only 10 days left in the legislative session, the Alaska Senate Democrats have sent a letter to Senate President Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) urging swift action on HB126, which calls for updating and reform of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
HB126 was proposed by the House Judiciary Committee, and first read across in the House on February 25, 2015. It advanced through the Veterans’ Affairs, and Judiciary committees. An amended version received unanimous approval in a House vote and was transmitted to the Senate on February 3 of this year. The bill was then referred to the Senate State Affairs and Judiciary Committees.
This is not the only proposal put forward to address this issue. Senator Bill Wielechowski’s SB 59 was introduced February 23rdof last year and has yet to receive a single hearing.
The letter (linked here) from Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage), Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage), and Senator Dennis Egan (D-Juneau) states in part:
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) has served as the foundation of military law in the United States since 1950 when passed by Congress. The UCMJ provides standard procedures and substantive criminal laws for U.S. military service members. In 2005, the Department of Defense approved a model state code for states to consider adopting. Since then, 17 states have updated their own code, each with particular adjustments made to accommodate the state’s individual needs.
HB 126 came about after the National Guard Bureau issued a report in 2014 that found the Guard is “not properly administering justice” in investigating or adjudicating Guard member misconduct cases. Fear of reprisal had eroded the trust and confidence in the Guard leadership, the report found, and the Guard did not have a formal means for coordinating with local law enforcement. Adding to that numerous reports of misconduct from Guard members, it became abundantly clear that Alaska needed a working code of military justice. The Alaska National Guard made it their priority to establish a code of military justice to ensure the safety of all Guard members, regardless of rank.
“Updating the UCMJ is absolutely necessary and long overdue,” said Sen. Berta Gardner. “There is no reason that this bill should die at the end of this session simply because it was allowed to languish in the Senate. Out of respect for those serving in our military, we owe this bill our best effort.”
“This bill has received strong bipartisan support across the board, and from the National Guard,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski who sits on both the Senate State Affairs Committee, and on the Judiciary Committee. “I, for one, am eager and ready to hear this bill in committee and make sure it gets a vote before the end of session.”
For more information, contact Jeanne Devon, Press Secretary for the Alaska Senate Democrats at 907-465-5319.