The Senate, which had passed a slimmer version of the bill in April, will take up the version the House has sent it and must complete its work by the end of next week.
A staccato of amendments were offered over the course of the evening. Nearly every amendment failed, but none so spectacularly as one offered by Rep. David Eastman, which went down 40-0, with even Eastman voting against his own amendment.
In the end, those voting against SB 54 passage were Republicans Eastman, DeLena Johnson, Mark Neuman, George Rauscher, Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, and Cathy Tilton — from the Mat-Su Valley, and they were joined by Democrats David Guttenberg of Fairbanks and Sam Kito of Juneau.
The bill went too far for “soft-on-crime” Democrats Guttenberg and Kito, but for the Republican “Mat-Su Six,” the bill likely didn’t crack down hard enough on crime.
On Saturday, Tilton, from Wasilla-Chugiak, introduced an amendment repealing nearly all of Senate Bill 91, the criminal justice reform bill that many blame for the crime wave that has swept across Alaska. It was a bridge too far for most legislators and the effort failed by a 13-27 vote.
Amendments that passed the House over the past few days include one that allows judges to hand down longer sentences for Class C felonies. Those are the least heinous felonies and account for more than one third of the prison population in Alaska.
Rep. Lora Reinbold was able to win support for increasing sentences for up to two years for the first Class C offense, up to four years for a second offense, and five years for a third.
SB 54 has some important fixes to what many see as a flawed SB 91, but it also may have set up a constitutional problem by having the same punishment for different levels of crimes. That will have to be hashed out in the Senate and then in a conference committee between the bodies.
Gov. Walker from China issued an immediate press release saying he approves of the bill as passed by the House and will sign it in its current form if it gets to his desk.
Meanwhile, the payroll tax that Walker wants, which prompted him to call a Special Session in the first place, hasn’t gained much traction. House Finance Committee today will hear from Office of Management and Budget Director Pat Pitney at 1 pm.
Senate Finance will take up SB 54 tomorrow at 2 pm in a joint session with Senate Judiciary.