Governor's crime bill moves out of committee

JUNEAU — The House Judiciary Committee has advanced Gov. Sean Parnell’s crime bill almost two months after first taking up the measure.

HB73 strengthens penalties for those who commit sex crimes and domestic violence. It’s part of an ongoing effort by the Parnell administration to crack down on violence against women and sexual assault.

The measure was passed out of committee on Wednesday. Up next is the House Finance Committee.

Some observers argue that certain parts of the bill are too punitive and violate the rights of Alaskans; one provision in the original bill would allow judges to order GPS tracking of people with protective orders against them, and another would allow investigators to intercept private communications in sex trafficking cases.

During somewhat heated deliberations over the bill’s Senate counterpart, SB22, the Senate Judiciary Committee discussed whether to strike a part of the bill that would have subjected volunteers for athletic teams to criminal penalties if they failed to report suspected child abuse.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said volunteers have a moral obligation to report, while Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, countered that volunteers with no professional training shouldn’t face the threat of legal penalties.

A compromise now says volunteers who spend a significant amount of time with children in athletic programs, are properly trained and sign a form acknowledging they are criminally liable to report must do so.

The House Judiciary Committee struck that provision completely. If the Senate amendment stands, differences will have to be worked out during conference between the two versions.

The Senate Finance Committee will continue working on the bill Thursday.

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