Lawmaker questions Parnell's crime bills

Ramras says proposals are not tough enough to fully deal with issue

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A state lawmaker is questioning whether the Parnell administration's proposals for cracking down on domestic violence and sexual assault are far-reaching and tough enough to adequately address the problem.

"The remedy doesn't seem to meet the rhetoric of an epidemic," said Rep. Jay Ramras, a Republican from Fairbanks also running for lieutenant governor.

Ramras' comment came Monday, when the first of three bills that Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing that address the two issues came before the House Judiciary Committee, which Ramras chairs. Parnell has referred to domestic violence and sexual assault as epidemics.

The bill, which Ramras supports, would allow for stiffer penalties for certain offenders and require convicted sex offenders who move to Alaska to register here.

The Department of Corrections submitted a cost estimate with the bill of $136,900 in the 2012 budget year. Ramras said that price tag translates into only three or four additional inmates a year, based on average inmate housing costs from Deputy Commissioner Dwayne Peeples.

Peeples said it would likely be more inmates serving shorter sentences. He noted his department had submitted rough estimates.

Annie Carpeneti, of the Department of Law, said more substantial changes are in the governor's proposed budget, which includes money for a crime lab and more village public safety officers. Two more bills are forthcoming that address post-conviction DNA testing and revise bail laws for people charged with sexual assault or domestic violence.

Ramras also sought firmer Alaska-specific numbers for quantifying the problem and for setting goals to address it. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Joseph Masters said state troopers respond to 800 to 1,000 cases a year of women and children who have been sexually assaulted.

Ramras aims to move the bill out of his committee after another hearing Wednesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing Monday on its version of the bill.

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