May 10, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

SB 91 No More

House Passes Tough Crime Law and Strengthens Gun Database

We heard you. Alaskans have been insisting that the legislature crack down on crime. The House did just that. As a former prosecutor, I feel passionate about this issue, and fighting for a strong criminal justice system that protects public safety has always been a top priority for me. In 2016, I was the only Democrat to vote against Senate Bill 91. This Wednesday, I enthusiastically voted to repeal and replace it.

In the House Finance committee, my fellow committee members and I crafted House Bill 49—that repeals and replaces SB 91—after hearing a myriad of crime presentations. We worked closely with executive branch crime experts to ensure that HB 49 gives police and prosecutors the tools to make Alaska safe.

I was proud to amend this bill in House Finance to help reduce gun violence. Currently in Alaska, someone involuntarily committed by a court for mental health treatment may not purchase a firearm. But the court’s database only extends back to 2014.  I proposed that we look back to 1981 to ensure that people suffering from mental illness can’t buy firearms. This is a rare opportunity to address gun violence in a bi-partisan manner: the Trump Administration and the National Rifle Association are both supportive of strengthening such databases.

Here are a few highlights of what the bill does:

  • Increases presumptive sentencing ranges for Class A and Class B felony offenses
  • Increases the maximum sentence for all Class A and Class B misdemeanors
  • Creates a new crime of "Possession of Motor Vehicle Theft Tools", under which individuals who both possess tools commonly used to steal a vehicle and demonstrate an intent to steal a vehicle can be prosecuted
  • Requires sex offenders registered in another jurisdiction to enter the Alaska sex offender registry when they move here
  • Prohibits sex offenders from receiving good-time credit while in prison or on parole
  • Repeals credits for time served for pre-trial electronic monitoring for the most serious crimes
  • Requires timely testing of sexual assault examination kits
  • Gives judges more discretion in considering pre-trial risk assessment in making bail release decisions

HB 49 is a positive step forward in addressing crime, but no matter how robust our statutes may be, if our law enforcement and courts do not receive the financial support they need, we won’t solve the problem.

Happily, public safety funding is a priority in this year’s House budget. We fully funded the Village Public Safety Officer program. We funded two new sex crime investigators in rural Alaska. We funded two new probation officers and a coordinator in our Therapeutic Courts. We funded my amendment that added new prosecutors, public defenders and support staff to help reduce the backlog of criminal cases.

              I’ll monitor HB 49’s effects, continue to advocate for adequate funding, and remain focused on improving our state’s public safety. Thank you for your trust and support. 

Best wishes,

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Representative Andy Josephson
Alaska House of Representatives, District 17
Serving Midtown, University and East Anchorage Neighborhoods




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