From ACLU of Alaska <[email protected]>
Subject Gaveling in: What we’re watching in session
Date February 3, 2021 7:26 PM
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A few Alaska legislative issues that will impact your civil liberties and civil rights.

Friend –

Government for the people. That should be the theme of the 32nd Alaska Legislative Session. Alaska is facing too many crises that must be addressed with urgency and seriousness – the state's dire fiscal situation, supporting Alaskans as they continue to navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing systemic racism, and ensuring the public can fully participate in its democracy, from access to voting to having faith that its government is transparent.

A quick reminder: Things look a little bit different this year with COVID-19 rules and guidelines in place, but that doesn't mean we can't be engaged. The decisions the Legislature makes in Juneau this year will impact your civil liberties and rights, and we hope you'll join us in solidarity to demand a government that is transparent and accountable to the people it serves. Your elected leaders work for you.

There is a lot going on, but until the House organizes, it's hard to predict what bills will get traction. However, out of the gate, we have our eyes on a few key issues.

* Budget: Lawmakers have to work together to find solutions to the fiscal situation, and their solution can't drain the state's savings or make continued cuts to programs and resources that disproportionately impact vulnerable populations. We also have a lot of questions about the decision to spend the state's limited dollars to re-open a prison, instead of leveraging alternatives to incarceration (transitional housing, electronic monitoring, parole, and clemency).

* Attorney general confirmation: Governor Michael Dunleavy left a lot of important questions unanswered about former Attorneys General Kevin Clarkson and Ed Sniffen. When the Legislature holds a confirmation hearing for Treg Taylor, we hope to see them press the Governor for answers on the abrupt resignations of both.

* Voting rights: The voter suppression bill, SB 39, is already in play. This bill would eliminate the state's Automatic Voter Registration system, criminalize the possession of ballots in a wide variety of circumstances, prohibit certain municipalities from voting by mail, and erect other barriers to the ballot.

* Policing: Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson has proposed reforms for how police use force in Alaska. She filed a set of six bills related to the use of force policy – including legislation intended to ban chokeholds, require de-escalation, and establish a use-of-force database.

* Reproductive rights: Senator Shelley Hughes pre-filed a constitutional amendment (SJR 4) that would undermine Alaskans' constitutional right to abortion care.

* Independent judiciary: Senator Mike Shower pre-filed two pieces of legislation – one a constitutional amendment – that would increase the influence of the executive and legislative branches on the state's courts, and threaten the integrity of Alaska's independent judiciary.

To learn more about these bills, the budget, and Alaska's desperate need for legislative oversight, head to our full report. <[link removed]> We will also exercise our influence, and we want you right there with us. When constituents organize and make their voices heard, they make a difference. If you're interested in being more engaged with our work, please fill out this brief volunteer survey <[link removed]> to let us know what's important to you, and we will be in touch.

Thanks for sticking with us,

Michael Garvey
Pronouns: He, him, his
Advocacy Director, ACLU of Alaska

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