Lawmakers join Parnell's domestic violence focus

Prevention efforts winning support, budget increases

Posted: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A couple of prominent Republicans are looking decidedly liberal, urging more money to be spent on social services such as domestic violence prevention.

Gov. Sean Parnell started the effort, proposing a stronger state effort to stop domestic violence in Alaska.

"We must courageously confront this private evil whenever we suspect or see it," Parnell said during his State of the State address to the Legislature in January.

The governor proposed more private efforts to address the problem, such as calling on attorneys to offer more legal services for free. He also asked the public help out as well, such as providing new funding to investigate, prosecute and jail offenders.

Now, a few fellow Republican legislators are saying Parnell should go further, and are one-upping him with new proposals to protect victims of domestic violence.

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, co-chair of the powerful House Finance Committee, praised Parnell for submitting an "austere" budget to the Legislature, but said violence protection was one area where the state could spend more money.

He said he would be offering budget changes that would go beyond what Parnell had proposed.

"This is a little broader than just cops, courts and cages," Hawker said.

Hawker didn't specify what his amendments would include, but Parnell has said there is a need for more domestic violence shelters and advocates.

The House Finance Committee will begin public hearings this week on the state's operating budget, which will include those changes.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Monday there is a high priority this year on facing the state's domestic violence problem.

There is broad agreement that more needs to be done, he said, but some legislators are concerned that Parnell's proposal focuses too heavily on law enforcement response.

"There's some concerns that it only addresses one portion of domestic violence, and not the other side of it, which is prevention," Chenault said.

Last year, Chenault's main crime-prevention effort was pushing a bill to bring the death penalty back to Alaska. That bill passed the Judiciary Committee last year, but has since stalled in Hawker's Finance Committee.

Chenault said the Legislature would likely try to find more ways to prevent domestic violence, and not just rely on "ocking them up, or prison, to try to take care of those issues."

More domestic violence arrests result in more costs for the court system, as well as the Department of Corrections.

Hawker said the new amendments would likely be introduced this week or next.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 586-4816 or

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