Alaska editorial: Kudos to bipartisan effort

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

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Sen. Con Bunde had it right when he said the Omnibus Anti-Crime Bill was "an example of when the legislative process really works ... so something good can happen for the people of Alaska."

House Bill 90 was a bipartisan effort headed by Rep. Ralph Samuels, a Republican, and Sen. Hollis French, a Democrat. The bill pulled together separate legislation into one package that:

• Allows law enforcement to take DNA samples of a person arrested for a felony or a crime against a person. Sen. Bunde pointed out that DNA samples are the fingerprints of the 21st century. They can speed prosecution and ensure justice as solid evidence for both conviction and exoneration.

• Provides that DNA material be destroyed by court order when a defendant is acquitted or charges dismissed. DNA information would be logged into a database within 90 days. It was a check on the national DNA database that recently led to a charge in the 13-year-old Bonnie Craig rape and murder case.

• Bans human trafficking and prostitution and increases penalties and for such crimes. Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, told horrific stories of the prostitution of some of the youngsters he's taken into his home as foster children. His work and that of a task force led to provisions in the omnibus bill to protect children and adults and bring hard justice to those who victimize them.

• Increases maximum probation time for a sex offender to 25 years and stiffens penalties for sex offenders who don't comply with conditions of release. Property used in such offenses can be forfeited, and a person convicted of electronic distribution of indecent material to a minor will have to register as a sex offender.

• Requires marked licenses for those ordered by a court to abstain from alcohol. Merchants can pursue up to $1,000 in civil penalties against violators who try to buy. This bill was a passion for Rep. Harry Crawford, D-Anchorage, and a strong measure against repeat alcohol offenders. Rep. Crawford's wife was seriously injured by a drunken driver.

• Disallows credit for time served on a sentence for time spent in a private residence, in electronic monitoring or for certain treatment programs. The bill also disallows "good-time" credit for parole for the same.

• Lifts the statute of limitation for crimes related to murder and for kidnapping.

This was good work across the board. Lawmakers strove with determination born of personal experience - experience that tempered and informed their efforts on behalf of all Alaskans.

Citizens expect some hard battles and sharp differences in the Legislature. Citizens also welcome work like this that cuts across party and institutional lines for everyone's benefit. Let's have more.

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