Capitol Live: Reps react to ‘atrocious’ sexual assault statistics – Juneau Empire

4:40 p.m.

At a presentation earlier to gathered representatives, Department of Public Safety Division of Statewide Services Bureau Chief Kathryn Monfreda presented mostly about the state’s transition to the new NIBRS crime recording system (read more below). She also presented some crime statistics that had legislators shaking their heads.

The one that stood out the most to those on hand (more than 20 representatives showed up) was that Alaska’s rape rate is 249 percent higher than the national average.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholtz, D-Anchorage, said “that number is just flat-out atrocious.”

More than 1,000 rapes were reported in 2017, according to Monfreda’s presentation, and 126 people were arrested for rape. Of those arrested, 79 percent were adults, 99 percent were male and 60 percent were Alaska Native or American Indian.

You can see it on page 14 of the presentation here.

Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, was on hand. She was shaking her head as the rape rate statistic was read, and she repeated her concerns on Twitter this afternoon:

— Alex McCarthy

3:30 p.m.

Another organizational option being explored in the House of Representatives is a power sharing agreement. This could mean co-chairs for committees, co-House speakers and so on.

Eight representatives are working on this option. Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, who is in this working group, said they are researching similar power sharing structures that have worked in other states such as Oregon and Montana.

Tuck said they even researched a consensus government, a system used in some Canadian territories to elect a leaders.

The group includes Juneau’s Rep. Andi Story, a Democrat. She declined to comment on the work group. Other members are Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka; Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks; Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks; Josh Revak, R-Anchorage; George Rauscher, R-Sutton and Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage.

— Kevin Baird

1:36 p.m.

Alaska’s U.S. Senator, Dan Sullivan, is targeting Facebook today in an open letter discussing questionable offenses by the social media giant against Alaska Natives selling art on Facebook Marketplace.

Late last week, Sullivan said in a press release, he was made aware of the policy issue by the Sealaska Heritage Institute – which informed him that Sitka skin sewer Robert Miller posted a sea otter hat for sale on Facebook and received a message saying it was not approved because it didn’t meet Facebook’s commerce policies. Facebook has since indicated the removal of these ads was a mistake. However, Sullivan is requesting greater clarity on the scope of prohibited items for Alaska Native craftsmen and their customers around the world.

“The Alaska Native community has for thousands of years used animal products for survival, subsistence, and as a key means of cultural expression,” Senator Sullivan wrote in his letter. “Inhibiting the sale of these items not only limits the cultural exchange Facebook has empowered the Alaska Native community to share, but also threatens one of the key economic opportunities in remote Alaska villages.”

In February 2018, Sullivan worked with Alaska Native artists to resolve an issue with Etsy – an online marketplace of crafts and handmade items – that initially refused to sell Alaska Native artists selling products or artwork with sealskin, sea otter and ivory.

[ stops letting Alaska Native artists sell ivory work]

In October 2016, he convened a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee field hearing at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention to discuss a series of reported problems and confusion surrounding state laws across the country that prohibit ivory sales and harm Alaska Native artisans.

Following the hearing – working with Alaska Native leaders and those negatively impacted by these bans – Sullivan introduced S. 1965, the Allowing Alaska IVORY Act. This legislation, cosponsored by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, would have preempted states from banning walrus ivory or whale bone products that have been legally carved by Alaska Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act; in addition to preempting states from issuing bans on mammoth ivory products.

— Mollie Barnes

1:20 p.m.

The House is stymied with a near even split between the House Republican caucus’ 20 members, the House Coalition caucus with 19 members and Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, remaining an island unto himself. Without a majority, the House has not been able to elect a speaker and it cannot conduct business.

As dialogue between representatives continues, one option that could help progress organization is the formation of a Committee of the Whole.

According to Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, the purpose of the Committee of the Whole is to “permit more free and informal discussion of any question than could be had in a deliberative body acting under its ordinary rules of procedure.” Mason’s rules are used by many state legislatures including Alaska’s.

To create a Committee of the Whole all 40 representatives must be present. Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, offered up one scenario that could play out with a Committee of the Whole. The House could further discuss the issues facing the Legislature, representatives could potentially take sides on issues and then separate into majority and minority teams. The House could then dissolve the committee and elect a permanent speaker.

The Committee of the Whole is limited in what it can do, though. It cannot create a subcommittee. It cannot take any roll call votes. Roll call votes are used to vote on bills, elect a Speaker of the House and so on.

A Committee of the Whole would be a means to an end and not a final solution.

— Kevin Baird

11:55 a.m.

House representatives are holding an informational meeting about the Alaska Marine Highway System in anticipation of the governor’s budget proposal, which is expected to contain significant cuts to spending across the board.

“Given the scope of the anticipated cuts that are being discussed, we decided to hold this meeting,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

One option that’s being discussed as a way to move the AMHS forward is turning it into a public corporation.

J. Robert Venables, the executive director for the Southeast Conference, said at the meeting that turning the AMHS into a public corporation would be the best way to provide stability and allow the system to strategically balance the issues it is facing, including declining traffic due to more people opting for shorter flights instead.

Capitol Live: Reps react to 'atrocious' sexual assault statistics - Juneau Empire nevin manimala

“We need to be a step away from the political treadmill that keeps going on and have an executive board that can bring expertise,” Venables said. “[It could] actually look at some strategic partnering that will allow job creation. Should the state of Alaska actively be serving alcohol to patrons on the vessels? Is there an opportunity for private sector to come in and do that? There’s ways that we can partner with the private sector.”

He said at the meeting that there’s a misalignment between labor and management in the system, and an executive board through a public corporation would empower labor to be part of the solution.

— Mollie Barnes

11 a.m.

The House isn’t in action, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s going on at the Capitol today. Starting now, there will be a meeting here in the building about the Alaska Marine Highway System’s economic impacts. Mollie will be attending that.

At 1 p.m., there will be a meeting about a new system the Department of Public Safety is looking to use in regard to reporting crimes. Reading through the presentation now, it looks as if this system — National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) — is more thorough than the system currently in place.

The FBI has mandated that states use NIBRS by 2021, according to the presentation, and Alaska “has committed to transition to NIBRS, and is presently working with the local agencies and the FBI program to meet the requirement,” the presentation states.

The presentation gives an example of a crime where someone is beaten, robbed, their car is stolen and their credit card is used. The state’s current crime-reporting system would count that as a strong-arm robbery of a residence with the vehicle and the cards listed as stolen property. The NIBRS system would count this as robbery, motor vehicle theft and fraud. It would also include more specific demographic data on the victim and offender.

I’m looking forward to learning more about that at this afternoon’s presentation.

— Alex McCarthy

10 a.m.

The House floor session has been canceled for the day. There was no reason given. Tomorrow, which is the 23rd day of session, the House will set a new record for lacking a speaker and organization. The current record was set at 22 days in 1981.

As Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, stated during Monday’s floor session, “It’s very difficult under our current rules, in fact impossible under our current rules to move forward with the business of the House without electing a speaker.”

Yesterday there was attempt to nominate a speaker, but it failed.

Read more here: Leaderless House on track to break 37-year record

— Kevin Baird


Capitol Live: Reps react to 'atrocious' sexual assault statistics - Juneau Empire nevin manimala

Leadership remains unsolved in the House of Representatives on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Reps react to 'atrocious' sexual assault statistics - Juneau Empire nevin manimala

Former Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, right, shares a laugh with Speaker nominee Rep. David Talerico, R-Healy, as Speaker Pro Tempore Rep Neal Foster, Nome, presides over the House on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. The House continues in a stalemakto organize permanent leadership. ( Michael Penn ι Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Reps react to 'atrocious' sexual assault statistics - Juneau Empire nevin manimala

In this Feb. 26, 2018 photo, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, gives a thumbs up while speaking about the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling during his annual speech to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

An earlier version of this article mislabeled Rep. Bart LeBon’s political affiliation. LeBon is a Fairbanks Republican.

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