Self-defense bill passes committee

Debate over fiscal note continues

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on Friday tried to take the unusual step of attaching a fiscal note from the committee to House Bill 80 in an attempt to dispute the Department of Law’s own note that states the proposed legislation would cost the department $450,000 a year.


House Bill 80, which later passed out of the committee, would eliminate a person’s duty to retreat from a situation where that person uses deadly force in self-defense, as long as the defender was in a place where he or she had “a right to be.”

The proposed note would have stated the committee believed the bill would not have any impact on the Department of Law’s budget.

“… In 16 years in the Legislature, I do not recall ever seeing a committee fiscal note used like this,” said Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage.

Gruenberg also said if the note was to be attached to the bill, he would feel obligated to contact the Public Defender Agency to get its opinion of the potential fiscal impact of the bill. Douglas Moody from the Public Defender Agency answered questions for the committee Wednesday, but did not address any fiscal issues regarding the bill.

In the end, the motion to attach a committee note to the bill was withdrawn and replaced with a letter asking the House Finance Committee to review the DOL’s fiscal note.

Committee Chairman Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, said he did not intend for the committee’s note to replace the DOL’s own fiscal projections.

“We are not withdrawing or canceling their fiscal note, this is the committee’s fiscal note addressing their concern,” he said.

Annie Carpeneti, an assistant attorney general from the Department of Law, maintained the DOL’s belief HB 80, if passed and signed into law, would increase the number of cases the department takes to trial, not reduce them.

Wednesday, when the committee first heard the bill, the head of the DOL’s criminal prosecution division agreed with a statement from Rep. Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage, that more people who had actually committed murder would try to claim self defense if the duty to retreat was eliminated.

Gatto challenged Carpenetti on this point, saying prosecutors would be less likely to prosecute self-defense cases under HB 80.

“The point is, a prosecutor would look at it and say, ‘it’s impossible for me to prosecute this person based on House Bill 80, the law of the land,’ and would then do fewer prosecutions, not more,” he said.

The bill will next be taken up by the House Finance Committee. Last year, a similar bill passed the House with broad support but did not receive a floor vote in the Senate.

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