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Alaska Senate Democrats' Caucus Connection

Issue #8 - August 16, 2013

 
Senator Berta Gardner sharing food and stories with neighbors at her community picnic
Senator Berta Gardner sharing food and stories with neighbors at her community picnic
 Former TX Rep. Jerry Madden and Senator Johnny Ellis discuss corrections reform at the Joint Judiciary Hearing
Former TX Rep. Jerry Madden and Senator Johnny Ellis discuss corrections reform at the Joint Judiciary Hearing
 Senator Hollis French and corrections reform expert Jerry Madden catch up during the Joint Judiciary Hearing
Senator Hollis French and corrections reform expert Jerry Madden catch up during the Joint Judiciary Hearing
 Senator Johnny Ellis and Senator Bill Wielechowski at the Joint Judiciary Hearing on corrections reform
Senator Johnny Ellis and Senator Bill Wielechowski at the Joint Judiciary Hearing on corrections reform

Senate Happenings

Referendum on Senate Bill 21

          The Senate Democratic Caucus worked diligently this past session to defeat Senate Bill 21, the Governor’s Oil Wealth Giveaway.  The two deciding votes in an otherwise deadlocked Senate were cast by ConocoPhillips employees. 

          So what’s happened since the bill passed the legislature?  A group of concerned and dedicated citizens led by Alaska founding father Vic Fischer, former first lady Bella Hammond, and Jim Whitaker filed a referendum and collected signatures to put the merits of the Oil Giveaway before the Alaskan voters.  The Vote Yes! Repeal the Giveaway campaign volunteers collected over 50,000 signatures in less than 90 days, confirming what we already knew to be true – we work and represent you!

          Regardless of how one feels about the bad business deal signed into law by the Governor after an illegitimate vote in the Senate and an incomplete vetting by the public and legislature, the Alaskan electorate will now be the deciding voice.   The 2014 primary will give us all an opportunity to stand up together for Alaska and repeal the Oil Giveaway

Corrections Reform

          The House and Senate Judiciary Committees held a hearing on corrections reform and Senate Bill 64, an Omnibus Crime/Sentencing Bill. SB64 proposes smarter, evidence-based, and cost-effective corrections measures, rather than simply continuing to incarcerate more and more non-violent offenders at massive public expense.

          Why does this matter to Alaska?  It is evident that Alaska’s high recidivism rates and rapid prison population growth are recipes for fiscal disaster. According to a 2011 report by the Alaska Judicial Council, Alaska is one of a handful of states with the highest prison population growth in the nation. Even more troubling, two-thirds of inmates today were back in custody within three years of their release.

          In short, if the state’s prison population continues to grow at its current rate of 3% per year, the state’s prisons will once again be at capacity by 2016.  If we don’t find a new approach, the legislature will need to construct and fund the operation of a new prison within 2 to 3 years. Keep in mind, Goose Creek Correctional Center was just completed in 2011 – with a construction cost of $250 million and an operating budget of $50 million dollars per fiscal year.

Senator Bill Wielechowski cuts the ribbon with Rep. Geran Tarr and Willow Wielechowski
Senator Bill Wielechowski cuts the ribbon with Rep. Geran Tarr and Willow Wielechowski
 Senator Hollis French talks with the media about the effort to repeal the Oil Giveaway
Senator Hollis French talks with the media about the effort to repeal the Oil Giveaway
 Senator Berta Gardner inspects the new UAA sports arena
Senator Berta Gardner inspects the new UAA sports arena
 Senator Bill Wielechowski accepting the Vietnam Veterans Legislator of the Year Award from Rick Davidge
Senator Bill Wielechowski accepting the Vietnam Veterans Legislator of the Year Award from Rick Davidge

Senate Happenings

Recently-signed Silver Alert law will save lives
(Senior Voice, Senator Johnny Ellis)

Referendum puts power into people's hands
(Anchorage Daily News, Senator Hollis French)

Alaska conservatives can lead way to cost-effective criminal justice
(Anchorage Daily News, TX Rep. Jerry Madden and Grover Norquist)

Oil company spin ignores facts about cut
(Anchorage Daily News, Rep. Les Gara)

Consultant hiring workers to talk voters out of backing repeal of oil tax cut
(Anchorage Daily News, Kyle Hopkins)

 

For more information contact Myer Hutchinson • 465-5319 or Myer.Hutchinson@akleg.gov

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Follow us on Twitter: @aksenatedems @senjohnnyellis @senhollisfrench @wielechowski