From ACLU of Alaska <[email protected]>
Subject Playing defense: What’s happening with #AKLeg
Date March 16, 2021 5:02 PM
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A bumpy start, threats to your freedoms, and oversight of the mass incarceration crisis.

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Friend –

We're at about the halfway mark of the 32nd Legislative session, and so far, your elected leaders have gotten off to a bumpy start tackling all of the issues facing Alaska. With about two months left, we're hoping lawmakers make better use of their time, and of the public's money and resources.

Because the House failed to organize until mid-February, the Senate had a head-start on legislation. Unfortunately, a few committees have dedicated precious time hearing legislation that would politicize the state's judicial selection system, restrict voting rights, and curtail abortion rights. But because the House formed a multi-party coalition, we believe they'll be able to stop the passage of detrimental legislation, and could even advance smart policy that protects and enhances your civil liberties and civil rights.

Here's a quick look at where a few big items stand today:

* On Tuesday, the Senate Health & Social Services Committee will take up SJR 4 (sponsored by Senator Shelley Hughes), which would undermine Alaskans' constitutional right to abortion care. We are mobilizing to stop it.

* News that Alaska is now spending more on prisons than the university system should have come to no surprise to state leadership, as the state continues to warehouse people and fuel the mass incarceration crisis it created. We need smart policy that keeps people out of jail to begin with and focuses on rehabilitation of the currently incarcerated. Recent budget hearings in the House and Senate have allowed us the opportunity to work with lawmakers to press for answers to important questions, so we can all get a grip on the wide scope of issues related to Alaska's prison system. We'll continue to press important questions when the full Finance Committees take up DOC's budget.

* The voter suppression bill, SB 39, has had a series of hearings in the Senate State Affairs Committee, which the bill's sponsor, Senator Mike Shower, chairs. He's indicated it could be revised, and we might see a new version this week, but the bill is fundamentally flawed. The committee hasn't provided any discussion on how it would make it harder for people to vote, and they canceled a public testimony opportunity.

* The Senate Judiciary Committee has been busy with SB 14, which would politicize Alaska's long-revered system of merit selection of judges to fill court vacancies. We offered oral testimony opposing the legislation. The committee changed the bill to be less drastic, but it remains an unnecessary bill at best.

Review our full legislative update. <[link removed]>

In liberty,

Michael Garvey

Advocacy Director, ACLU of Alaska

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