Legislature(2013 - 2014)HOUSE FINANCE 519

04/10/2014 08:30 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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Heard & Held
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Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 121(FIN) Out of Committee
CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 56(JUD)                                                                                                
     "An Act relating to certain crimes involving                                                                               
     controlled substances; and providing for an effective                                                                      
8:59:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  FRED  DYSON,  Sponsor,  discussed  the  legislation                                                                    
noting that the bill was driven  by two or three factors. He                                                                    
pointed  out  to the  committee  that  the majority  of  the                                                                    
state's  drug laws  were put  into  place in  1982 and  were                                                                    
seldom revised.  He reported  that, in  much of  the nation,                                                                    
states were  now reevaluating classification  and sentencing                                                                    
criteria  due  to  incarceration costs.  He  furthered  that                                                                    
Alaska had  one of  the highest  incarceration rates  in the                                                                    
United States. He opined that  if the state continued on its                                                                    
current trend  additional facilities would be  needed within                                                                    
four  to five  years even  though the  state recently  spent                                                                    
$250  million on  a new  prison.  He also  pointed out  that                                                                    
prisoner  reentry   remained  a  challenge.  He   hoped  the                                                                    
legislation  would  help to  remove  some  of the  obstacles                                                                    
inmates  face  upon  release.   He  explained  that  certain                                                                    
opportunities  were not  available to  anyone with  a felony                                                                    
conviction.  He  cited  that approximately  1,500  jobs  and                                                                    
benefits  were not  accessible to  felons. He  detailed that                                                                    
Alaska's  drug treatment  programs were  quite effective  in                                                                    
the state's  system. He mentioned  that he took a  very high                                                                    
view of  the law  and that  legislators created  statute law                                                                    
through being elected  by the people. He wanted  the laws to                                                                    
state  his   values  and  that  they   be  proportional.  He                                                                    
reemphasized that  drug laws  needed revamping.  He deferred                                                                    
to Chuck Kopp to review a slide presentation with the                                                                           
9:02:30 AM                                                                                                                    
CHUCK KOPP,  STAFF, SENATOR DYSON, discussed  the PowerPoint                                                                    
Presentation  "SB 56  -  Reclassifying  Small Quantity  Drug                                                                    
Possession" (copy  on file). He  began with slide  2 through                                                                    
slide 5:  "A Balance of  Justice and Proportionality  in the                                                                    
Law,"  which provided  a list  of 12  examples of  class "C"                                                                    
felonies to be used for a comparison basis.                                                                                     
   · Misc. Involving Controlled Substance 4th Degree (MICS                                                                      
     4) AS 11.71.040(a)(3)(a) C Felony                                                                                          
     A person possesses  any amount of a schedule  IA or IIA                                                                    
     o  Example: Possession of  one grain  of a  pain killer                                                                    
        like hydrocodone  without  a  prescription. The  law                                                                    
        currently  has  no  dosage  matrix  to  discriminate                                                                    
        between   trafficking,    peddling,    and    simple                                                                    
        possession. It is no defense that the amount of drug                                                                    
        was not a useable quantity, only  that the substance                                                                    
       be positively identified in a narcotics test.                                                                            
   · Assault 3rd Degree - AS 11.41.220(a)(1)(a) C Felony                                                                        
     A  person  causes  fear of  imminent  serious  physical                                                                    
     injury by means of a dangerous instrument.                                                                                 
     o  Example: A person  points a firearm  at the  head of                                                                    
        another person and threatens to kill them.                                                                              
   · Stalking 1st Degree AS 11.41.260 C Felony                                                                                  
     o  Example: A person engages  in a "course  of conduct"                                                                    
        with a victim  (i.e. following them,  entering their                                                                    
        property, contacting by  phone, delivering  items to                                                                    
        victim) and  places  victim  in  fear  of  death  or                                                                    
        physical injury  and the  person possesses  a deadly                                                                    
   · Sexual Assault 3rd Degree AS 11.41.425(a)(1)(2) C                                                                          
     o  Example: A person engages  in sexual contact  with a                                                                    
        person  who   he   knows   is  mentally   incapable,                                                                    
        incapacitated or  otherwise  unaware  and unable  to                                                                    
        consent to the sex act. Or,  a prison guard engaging                                                                    
        in sexual penetration with a prisoner.                                                                                  
  · Indecent Exposure 1st Degree AS 11.41.458(a) C Felony                                                                       
     o  Example: A person knowingly exposes  his genitals to                                                                    
        a child while masturbating.                                                                                             
   · Vehicle Theft 1st Degree AS 11.46.360 C Felony                                                                             
     o  Example: A person, having no right  to do so, steals                                                                    
        a car,  truck, motorcycle,  motorhome, airplane,  or                                                                    
        boat of another person. Or, a person steals a police                                                                    
   · Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Adult 1st                                                                          
     Degree AS 11.51.200 C Felony                                                                                               
     o  Example: A person  fails, without lawful  excuse, to                                                                    
        provide support  for  a  vulnerable  adult  and  the                                                                    
        vulnerable  adult  is   in  the  person's   care  by                                                                    
        authority of  law and  the vulnerable  adult suffers                                                                    
        serious physical injury.                                                                                                
   · Promoting Contraband 1st Degree AS 11.56.375(a) C                                                                          
     o  A person illegally brings a firearm  or drugs into a                                                                    
  · Possession of Child Pornography AS 11.61.127 C Felony                                                                       
     o A person knowingly possesses child pornography.                                                                          
   · Unlawful Furnishing of Explosives AS 11.61.250(a) C                                                                        
     o  A person  gives explosives  to another  knowing that                                                                    
        the person intends to use them to commit a crime.                                                                       
   · Sex Trafficking 3rd Degree AS 11.66.130(a) C Felony                                                                        
     o  A  person,  with  intent  to  promote  prostitution,                                                                    
        manages, supervises,  controls or  owns  a place  of                                                                    
   · Cruelty to Animals AS 11.61.140(a) C Felony                                                                                
     o  A person intentionally inflicts severe physical pain                                                                    
        or prolonged suffering  on an  animal. Or,  a person                                                                    
        knowingly kills an animal with  intent to intimidate                                                                    
        or threaten another person.                                                                                             
Mr.   Kopp   reported   that  the   felonies   listed   were                                                                    
proportionally  treated  in  Alaska's law.  The  purpose  in                                                                    
providing the information was to  discuss whether or not the                                                                    
state  properly   equated  the   offenses  or  if   it  over                                                                    
criminalized  simple possession.  He informed  the committee                                                                    
that SB 56 reclassified  small quantity possession for first                                                                    
time offenders to a class A misdemeanor.                                                                                        
He turned to slide 6: "Class A Misdemeanor Offense":                                                                            
     Class A Misdemeanor  Offense Penalty - Up to  1 year in                                                                    
    prison, $10,000 fine - A serious charge and penalty                                                                         
   · Assault in the Fourth Degree AS 11.41.230                                                                                  
     o  A  person  "recklessly  causes  physical  injury  to                                                                    
        another  person"  or  "with  criminal  negligence...                                                                    
        causes physical injury to another person by means of                                                                    
        a dangerous instrument."  This can  include domestic                                                                    
        violence, as defined in AS 18.66.990.                                                                                   
   · Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI) AS 28.35.030                                                                         
     o  A first and second Driving Under the Influence (DUI)                                                                    
  · Resisting or Interfering with Arrest AS 11.56.700(a)                                                                        
     o  A person  knowing  a  peace  officer  is  making  an                                                                    
        arrest, and  with  intent  to  prevent  the  arrest,                                                                    
        resists the arrest of himself or interferes with the                                                                    
        arrest of another by force.                                                                                             
   · Official Misconduct AS 11.56.850(a)                                                                                        
     o  A public  servant  knowingly,  and  with  intent  to                                                                    
        obtain a benefit or to injure  or deprive another of                                                                    
        a benefit, performs an unauthorized  exercise of his                                                                    
        official function;  or  refrains  from performing  a                                                                    
        duty of his office.                                                                                                     
9:07:05 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Kopp continued to slide 7: "SB 56 - Distinguishing                                                                          
between traffickers, peddlers, and addicts":                                                                                    
   · SB 56 creates an "Escalating Punishment" system,                                                                           
     similar  to  the  State's  approach  to  DUI's,  Theft,                                                                    
     Criminally   Negligent   Burning   and   Assault.   Key                                                                    
     o  Reclassification of small  quantity possession  to a                                                                    
        Class A misdemeanor                                                                                                     
     o  "3-strikes"  Rule.   Gives  person   a  chance   for                                                                    
        meaningful reform, if they screw up  twice, and fail                                                                    
        to participate in their own rehabilitation, the next                                                                    
        offense results in a felony charge.                                                                                     
     o  Strict quantity  limits; over  the  limit =  implied                                                                    
        distribution = felony.                                                                                                  
     o  No  restrictions  placed   on  law   enforcement  or                                                                    
        prosecutors  to   pursue   drug  manufacturers   and                                                                    
        dealers, regardless of  quantity (i.e.,  evidence of                                                                    
        manufacturing or selling drugs = felony).                                                                               
   · This should lead to reductions in:                                                                                         
     o Prison incarceration costs                                                                                               
     o Legal and adjudication costs                                                                                             
     o Low-risk offenders being placed on felony probation                                                                      
     o Re-entry barriers for simple possession offenders                                                                        
        getting out of prison                                                                                                   
     o Reduction in indirect costs, such as public                                                                              
        assistance for med., housing & food                                                                                     
   · Significant cost savings while maintaining public                                                                          
Mr. Kopp  stated that SB  56 introduced a new  dosage matrix                                                                    
into  the  law  to  help  the  state  differentiate  between                                                                    
traffickers, peddlers,  and addicts or people  simply caught                                                                    
for possession.  He acknowledged that not  all people caught                                                                    
for possession were addicts. He  informed the committee that                                                                    
the drug data showed that only  a third of the people caught                                                                    
for   first-time  possession   were  actually   addicts.  He                                                                    
remarked that strict quantity limits,  the third item listed                                                                    
under  escalating  punishment  on the  slide,  were  modeled                                                                    
after Wyoming's law.                                                                                                            
9:09:16 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Kopp  advanced to slide  8: "Alaska's  Prison Population                                                                    
Growth." He stated that the  red line signified the increase                                                                    
in the  number of beds  with the addition of  Alaska's Goose                                                                    
Creek  Correctional  Center.  The blue  line  indicated  the                                                                    
projection   of   the   growing  prisoner   population.   He                                                                    
specifically  directed the  committee's  attention to  where                                                                    
the two lines crossed - when  the state would be at capacity                                                                    
again. He anticipated  that it would cost  the state another                                                                    
$250 million or more for an additional prison.                                                                                  
Mr. Kopp  referred to slide  9: "Drivers of  Alaska's Prison                                                                    
Population Growth":                                                                                                             
     1. Increased admission for Felony Theft in the Second                                                                      
        Degree-theft of property valued over $500-and                                                                           
        increased sentence lengths associated with these                                                                        
     2. A 63% rise in prison admission for drug offenders,                                                                      
        particularly    felony   offenders    convicted   of                                                                    
        possession offenses. >>Addressed by SB 56                                                                               
     3. Increase in Petitions to Revoke Probation (PTRP's)                                                                      
        and probation violations. >>Connected to number of                                                                      
        offenders on felony probation; greatly impacted by                                                                      
        SB 56.                                                                                                                  
     •Source: DOC Memo, Factors Driving Alaska's Prison                                                                         
     Population Growth, at 1 (August 24, 2012).                                                                                 
9:10:19 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Kopp discussed  slide 10: "Alaska Court  Cases File with                                                                    
MICS4  Charge."  He elaborated  that  the  slide showed  the                                                                    
number  of misconduct  cases involving  controlled substance                                                                    
fourth degree charges.  In 2008 there were  over 600 charges                                                                    
filed and in  2013 about 1,100 were  recorded. He emphasized                                                                    
that  the  number of  charges  almost  doubled in  the  time                                                                    
period.  Not all  of the  charges were  possession offenses,                                                                    
but  one-third  to  one-half  were  misconduct  involving  a                                                                    
controlled   substance   fourth-degree   involving   several                                                                    
subsets of charges.                                                                                                             
Mr. Kopp  turned to slide 11:  "Collateral Consequences from                                                                    
Small-Quantity Drug Possession Felonies":                                                                                       
   · "Our legal system has created barriers to work,                                                                            
     education, business opportunities, volunteerism, and                                                                       
     housing - the very things that are necessary to                                                                            
     prevent recidivism."- Senator John Coghill                                                                                 
   · Alaska ranks number one in the nation for state-                                                                           
     created   legislative   and  regulatory   barriers   to                                                                    
     successful  reentry  for  individuals with  a  criminal                                                                    
     record, according  to the national Legal  Action Center                                                                    
     (LAC). -Deborah Periman, Alaska Justice Forum 30 (3-                                                                       
     4), UAA Justice Center                                                                                                     
   · Offenders who complete their sentences seldom, if                                                                          
     ever, stop paying for their crimes                                                                                         
   · Barriers to reentry into society after prison effect 1                                                                     
     of 31 Alaskans.                                                                                                            
       o Medicare/Medicaid facilities - federal law                                                                             
       o Anchorage School District - district policy                                                                            
        o North Slope - Private HR decision                                                                                     
   · Difficulty to find housing                                                                                                 
   · Restrictions on ability to adopt, or receive placement                                                                     
     of foster children                                                                                                         
   · Inability to qualify for public assistance benefits on                                                                     
     release from prison                                                                                                        
  · Ineligible to become a Village Public Safety Officer                                                                        
   · SB 56 allows Alaskans to avoid many of these                                                                               
     consequences, if they are not repeat offenders.                                                                            
Mr. Kopp mentioned  an amendment that went  before the House                                                                    
Judiciary  Committee  in  which   someone  was  referred  to                                                                    
treatment  if they  were charged  as a  first-time offender.                                                                    
The  treatment amendment  was in  Section 3  of SB  56 where                                                                    
they  were required  to satisfy  the screening,  evaluation,                                                                    
referral,  and   program  requirements   of  a   drug  abuse                                                                    
evaluation program.                                                                                                             
9:12:38 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Kopp  moved   on  to  slide  12:   "Reduced  Legal  and                                                                    
Adjudication  Costs."  He  indicated the  slide  showed  the                                                                    
reduced  legal and  adjudication  costs  between felony  and                                                                    
misdemeanor cases  in district and superior  courts. It also                                                                    
showed the  mean and  median number  of days  to disposition                                                                    
for a  felon and  misdemeanant. The  court system  stated in                                                                    
its fiscal  note that  the new system  would save  the state                                                                    
money  but noted  a zero  fiscal  note and  remarked on  the                                                                    
difficulty in  quantifying a specific amount  of savings. He                                                                    
went on  to explain  that superior  court judges  cost more,                                                                    
empaneling grand  juries was  costly, witness  testimony was                                                                    
costly, and that  a person tried with a  felony was afforded                                                                    
a higher level of legal counsel.                                                                                                
9:13:32 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Kopp  discussed slides 13 and  14: "SB 56 -  "A Fiscally                                                                    
Conservative Policy":                                                                                                           
   · Legislative Research Service identified approximately                                                                      
     $14M  in annual  cost  savings, the  majority of  which                                                                    
     came from DOC                                                                                                              
   · Office of Public Advocacy Fiscal Note - There will                                                                         
     likely be a  decrease for OPA in the  cost of providing                                                                    
     contract    attorney    defense   services.    Estimate                                                                    
     $250,000.00 savings in FY  2013. Savings of $1,100/case                                                                    
     @ 255 cases. Indeterminate note.                                                                                           
   · Public Defender Agency Fiscal Note - Will reduce the                                                                       
     cost  of processing  individual  cases…will reduce  the                                                                    
     overall cost  growth rate of the  Agency's budget. Zero                                                                    
     fiscal note.                                                                                                               
   · Dept. of Corrections Fiscal Note - In 2012, there were                                                                     
     427 MICS 4 convictions  which carried an average length                                                                    
     of  stay  of  188.1  days…the department  could  see  a                                                                    
     potential  reduction  in  man days  of  54,186.3  days.                                                                    
     Indeterminate   fiscal  note.   If   only  half   these                                                                    
     convictions were  impacted by this bill,  it would save                                                                    
     over $4M each year.                                                                                                        
   · Department of Law Fiscal Note - The fiscal note is                                                                         
     indeterminate.  Generally, reducing  an offense  from a                                                                    
     felony  to  a  misdemeanor  creates a  savings  in  the                                                                    
     criminal justice system.                                                                                                   
   · DPS,  Alaska State  Troopers Fiscal  Note -  Passage of                                                                    
     this bill  would not  change the  investigative process                                                                    
     regarding  these  offenses  and  will  have  no  fiscal                                                                    
     impact on the Division  of Alaska State Troopers…a zero                                                                    
     fiscal note is being submitted.                                                                                            
   · DPS, Laboratory  Services Fiscal  Note - A  zero fiscal                                                                    
9:14:57 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr. Kopp highlighted slide 15: "Public Safety Impacts":                                                                         
   · 13  States have  reclassified some  Schedule I  and IIA                                                                    
     drugs from felony to misdemeanor  possession based on a                                                                    
     dosage   matrix  include   Wyoming,  Wisconsin,   Iowa,                                                                    
     Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi,  South Carolina, West                                                                    
     Virginia,     Pennsylvania,      Deleware,     Vermont,                                                                    
     Massachusetts and Maine.                                                                                                   
   · Alaska's adult incarceration rate  is 537 per 100,000 -                                                                    
     BJS Prisoners in 2012 Report                                                                                               
   · Average adult incarceration rate  of these 13 states is                                                                    
     490 per 100,000.                                                                                                           
   · Five  (5)   of  these   states  have  a   higher  adult                                                                    
     incarceration rate  per 100,000  (665 avg)  - Delaware,                                                                    
    Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina & Tennessee.                                                                          
   · Eight (8) states have a  lower adult incarceration rate                                                                    
     per  100,000 (381  avg) -  Iowa, Maine,  Massachusetts,                                                                    
     Pennsylvania,  Vermont, West  Virginia, Wisconsin,  and                                                                    
Mr. Kopp cited  that there were 10  states that reclassified                                                                    
possession of small  quantities of heroin, methamphetamines,                                                                    
and  cocaine  to  a  misdemeanor  charge  for  a  first-time                                                                    
offender.  Three  states   reclassified  cocaine  possession                                                                    
including  Maine,  Mississippi, and  Wisconsin.  Mississippi                                                                    
was  prosecutorial  discretion  only whether  a  person  was                                                                    
charged with  a felon or  a misdemeanor. Mississippi  was an                                                                    
outlier because its  incarceration rate was so  high that it                                                                    
pulled   up  the   average.  It   had  the   second  highest                                                                    
incarceration rate in  the nation coming in at  just under 1                                                                    
thousand per 100 thousand.                                                                                                      
9:16:43 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Kopp  continued  to  slide  16:  "Public  Safety:  2012                                                                    
Statistical  Comparison." He  noted  that  the chart  showed                                                                    
where Alaska  was at  in terms  of crimes  and incarceration                                                                    
rates  in comparison  to  other states  and  the nation.  He                                                                    
reported  that  Alaska,  compared  to  the  reclassification                                                                    
states  grouped together,  had significantly  higher violent                                                                    
crime  rate,  similar property  crime  rate,  and a  similar                                                                    
incarceration rate.  Alaska, compared to all  of the states,                                                                    
had a  significantly greater violent crime  rate, a somewhat                                                                    
lower  property crime  rate,  and  a parallel  incarceration                                                                    
rate.  Alaska,   measured  alongside  the  10   states  that                                                                    
reclassified only  heroin, methamphetamines, and  cocaine to                                                                    
first-time  small-quantity  possession misdemeanor,  had  an                                                                    
elevated  violent crime  rate, a  comparable property  crime                                                                    
rate, and a slightly  higher incarceration rate. He surmised                                                                    
that it was difficult to  draw a causal relationship between                                                                    
crime reclassification and an impact to public safety.                                                                          
Mr. Kopp  presented slide 17  "Kleiman, Mark (2012,  Apr 22)                                                                    
Rethinking the War on Drugs, Wall Street Journal":                                                                              
   · The U.S. has reached a dead end in trying to fight                                                                         
     drug  use  by  treating  every offender  as  a  serious                                                                    
     criminal.   Blanket   drug    legalization   has   some                                                                    
     superficial charm-it  fits nicely into a  sound-bite or                                                                    
     tweet-but it  can't stand up  to serious  analysis. The                                                                    
     real prospects for reform  involve policies rather than                                                                    
     slogans. It  remains to be  seen whether  our political                                                                    
     process-and the  media circus that often  shapes it-can                                                                    
     tolerate the necessary complexity.                                                                                         
   · "For every complex problem," H.L. Mencken wrote,                                                                           
     "there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong."                                                                      
Mr.  Kopp advanced  to slide  18: "Probable  Outcomes of  SB                                                                    
   · Balance of justice and proportionality in our laws                                                                         
   · Large reduction in barriers to reentry for offenders,                                                                      
     improvement in employability                                                                                               
   · More persons successfully restored to a healthy                                                                            
   · Minimal impact on public safety                                                                                            
   · Significant fiscal savings                                                                                                 
   · The proposed bill language is more conservative than                                                                       
     that  of Wyoming,  a state  that  is not  a bastion  of                                                                    
     liberalism, and has had good results.                                                                                      
Mr. Kopp disclosed slide 19: "Support":                                                                                         
   · Alaska Native Justice Center                                                                                               
   · Alaska Mental Health Board                                                                                                 
   · Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse                                                                                
   · Central Peninsula Hospital                                                                                                 
   · CPH Behavioral Health Associates                                                                                           
   · Walt Monegan, APD Chief, Retired                                                                                           
   · Carmen Gutierrez, Recent DoC Deputy Commissioner                                                                           
   · Niesje Steinkruger, Superior Court Judge, Retired                                                                          
Mr.  Kopp supplied  a list  of entities  that supported  the                                                                    
9:19:35 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Dyson pulled  out an  expired  bottle of  Oxycodone                                                                    
acetaminophen which  did not contain any  medicine. However,                                                                    
he  contended  that if  it  did  he  could be  arrested  for                                                                    
possession under current  law. He also surmised  that if the                                                                    
bottle were tested and residue of  a drug was found he could                                                                    
be subject to  being arrested. He referred to  an article in                                                                    
members'  packets regarding  a professional  person who  had                                                                    
been  charged   with  possession   for  having   an  expired                                                                    
prescription bottle containing drug  residue in his custody.                                                                    
His  life was  ruined as  a result.  He emphasized  that the                                                                    
intent of the  bill was not to  be soft on crime  but to get                                                                    
proportionality in the  law. He was impressed  with the list                                                                    
of  all the  class C  felonies that  were equivalent  to his                                                                    
example in the law.                                                                                                             
9:21:06 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze asked the senator  to provide the committee                                                                    
with a  copy of the  case so that  it could be  evaluated by                                                                    
Anne  Carpeneti  an  Assistant  Attorney  General  with  the                                                                    
Department of Law.                                                                                                              
Senator Dyson agreed.                                                                                                           
9:21:43 AM                                                                                                                    
KRIS   SELL,   VICE   PRESIDENT,   ALASKA   PEACE   OFFICERS                                                                    
ASSOCIATION,  represented  900  current and  retired  police                                                                    
officers from the  State of Alaska. The  association did not                                                                    
support the  bill. She  contended that the  bill was  not on                                                                    
the right  track and, based  on real life  experience, small                                                                    
quantities   were  dealer   quantities.  Dealers   typically                                                                    
carried "points" which were equal to  a tenth of a gram. The                                                                    
bill  would  provide  dealers  with  more  opportunities  to                                                                    
involve people in the drug  world. She understood the intent                                                                    
of the  bill was to  avoid having to give  harsh punishments                                                                    
to people  acting out  of curiosity or  who made  a mistake.                                                                    
She  emphasized that  the offenders  she was  concerned with                                                                    
were drug dealers. She admitted  that the current system had                                                                    
problems, and  that treatment and accountability  were large                                                                    
components of  helping people  to conquer  their addictions.                                                                    
She  concurred  with some  things  she  had heard  from  the                                                                    
Department of Law  about its position on the  issue. Some of                                                                    
the  pleas  that could  come  from  post-victim relief  from                                                                    
professional drug dealers who had  pled out to charges would                                                                    
want a  misdemeanor rather than  a felony charge.  On behalf                                                                    
of  the  Alaska Peace  Officers  Association  she asked  the                                                                    
committee not  to be among  the states that went  softest on                                                                    
hard drugs and to oppose the legislation.                                                                                       
9:25:37 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze asked  for a  written position  statement.                                                                    
Ms. Sell  stated that there  was a copy  of a letter  in the                                                                    
committee packet sent to the sponsor of the bill.                                                                               
Representative Gara  asked if there would  be an opportunity                                                                    
to direct a question to the Department of Law.                                                                                  
Co-Chair  Stoltze said  there  would be  time  later in  the                                                                    
meeting for Representative Gara to ask his question.                                                                            
GARY  FOLGER,  COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT  OF  PUBLIC  SAFETY                                                                    
(DPS),  referred   to  potential  foreseen   and  unforeseen                                                                    
consequences  of  the  bill.  He  deferred  to  his  special                                                                    
assistant to provide the department's assessment.                                                                               
9:28:00 AM                                                                                                                    
KELLY  HOWELL,  SPECIAL   ASSISTANT,  DEPARTMENT  OF  PUBLIC                                                                    
SAFETY, read the DPS prepared testimony:                                                                                        
     There   is  no   doubt  that   substance  abuse   is  a                                                                    
     significant contributor  to crime  in Alaska.  Yet even                                                                    
     given  this statement,  we acknowledge  that possession                                                                    
     of  small  quantities of  certain  schedule  IA or  IIA                                                                    
     substances   for   a   first-time  offender   is   more                                                                    
     proportional   to   misdemeanor  rather   than   felony                                                                    
     behavior.  The   expectation  is  that   a  misdemeanor                                                                    
     penalty for a first offense  can serve as a wakeup call                                                                    
     and  potentially  deter   offenders  from  future  drug                                                                    
     offenses or other crimes.  Whether this same philosophy                                                                    
     should apply to  a second-time offender is  a matter we                                                                    
     ask   the    legislature   to   take    under   further                                                                    
     Subsequently,    we     also    encourage    additional                                                                    
     deliberation  on  the  quantities identified  as  "non-                                                                    
     distributive" or "small amounts"  as proposed in Senate                                                                    
     Bill  56. The  Alaska  State  Troopers' Statewide  Drug                                                                    
     Enforcement  Unit (SDEU)  reports that  an average  per                                                                    
     use  of   heroin  is   approximately  0.1   grams  (100                                                                    
     milligrams) and  an average per use  of methamphetamine                                                                    
     is 0.75  - 1.0  grams. In essence,  just less  than 500                                                                    
     milligrams of  heroin would equate  to about  five uses                                                                    
     and just less than 3  grams of methamphetamine would be                                                                    
     about  three  to  four  uses.  Though  these  could  be                                                                    
     considered  user-level   quantities,  we   urge  closer                                                                    
     scrutiny  of   these  levels   to  avoid   a  potential                                                                    
     unintended   consequence  of   empowering  street-level                                                                    
     Another issue  relates to  the 300  milligram threshold                                                                    
     established  for  LSD.  The SDEU  reports  they  rarely                                                                    
     encounter  LSD  in a  measurable  form.  It is  usually                                                                    
     found in dosage  units, with some of  the liquid having                                                                    
     been absorbed  into a  more sold  form such  as blotter                                                                    
     paper,  sugar cubes,  or  gelatin.  The actual  potency                                                                    
     levels of  each dosage  unit can range  from 30  to 100                                                                    
     micrograms  (1/1,000,000  of  a gram).  Therefore,  the                                                                    
     threshold    amount     currently    proposed    equals                                                                    
     approximately 300 doses.                                                                                                   
     There  will also  be impacts  to  the Scientific  Crime                                                                    
     Detection  Laboratory  (crime   lab)  within  DPS.  The                                                                    
     minimum  thresholds  established   by  this  bill  will                                                                    
     require testing of enough of  the substance to meet the                                                                    
     For  example, whereas  now the  crime lab  may need  to                                                                    
     positively  identify  only   one  tablet  to  determine                                                                    
     whether it  was a prohibited substance,  analysis of at                                                                    
     least  15  tablets (if  present)  may  now need  to  be                                                                    
     analyzed  to meet  the threshold  and burden  of proof.                                                                    
     This will impact  the workload, but the  crime lab will                                                                    
     attempt to manage it within its current staffing.                                                                          
     In  closing,  we  must be  careful  and  thoughtful  to                                                                    
     ensure a  balanced approach to protect  the public from                                                                    
     dangerous    offenders    while    holding    offenders                                                                    
     accountable at  the appropriate levels, whether  it's a                                                                    
     felony  or misdemeanor.  This is  a worthy  effort that                                                                    
     DPS will continue to work  with the legislature on this                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stoltze  asked  if   DPS  would  characterize  its                                                                    
position as  a flashing amber  light rather than a  green or                                                                    
red light. Ms. Howell replied in the affirmative.                                                                               
Representative Guttenberg asked if  the discussion was about                                                                    
an aggregate dosage amount.                                                                                                     
TERRY  VRABEC,  DEPUTY  COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT  OF  PUBLIC                                                                    
SAFETY,  answered  that under  current  law  if someone  was                                                                    
caught for possession  of a substance a small  portion of it                                                                    
would be taken for testing.  The legislation would raise the                                                                    
testing  portion  to  five doses  requiring  more  time  and                                                                    
effort on the part of the crime lab.                                                                                            
9:34:17 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Neuman  asked  Deputy  Commissioner  Vrabec  for                                                                    
clarity  about  measuring drug  quantities  at  the time  of                                                                    
Mr.  Vrabec  replied  that  a  weight  would  be  taken  and                                                                    
included in  evidence. However, the department  did not test                                                                    
the  entire confiscated  amount. He  gave the  example of  a                                                                    
pound of  cocaine. The department  would not test  the whole                                                                    
pound, just a  portion of it. Vice-Chair  Neuman referred to                                                                    
the cocaine example wanting additional clarity.                                                                                 
Ms. Howell  pointed to  page 3, line  2 of  the legislation.                                                                    
She explained  that the  threshold was  15 or  more tablets.                                                                    
For example,  a person could  e under the threshold  if they                                                                    
had three tablets and one  was determined to be a prohibited                                                                    
substance. However,  if the  person had  15 or  more tablets                                                                    
then each tablet would be tested to verify the substance.                                                                       
Vice-Chair Neuman wondered how the  lab would know if all of                                                                    
the  tablets were  a prohibited  substance unless  they were                                                                    
all tested.                                                                                                                     
9:36:57 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Vrabec  suggested that  the  Department  of Law  answer                                                                    
Representative Neuman's question further.                                                                                       
Representative  Munoz  asked  about  how  many  people  were                                                                    
currently  serving  under a  class  C  felony conviction  in                                                                    
Alaska for drug possession.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair Stoltze  asked Representative Munoz for  clarity on                                                                    
whether  or not  she  was asking  about  possession only  or                                                                    
possession   in  other   activities.  Representative   Munoz                                                                    
replied that she was asking about possession only.                                                                              
Mr.  Vrabec  deferred  the question  to  the  Department  of                                                                    
RON TAYLOR, DEPUTY  COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS,                                                                    
answered  that  the  number was  approximately  427  people.                                                                    
However,  some   of  the  427   people  were   charged  with                                                                    
additional offenses.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair  Stoltze asked  if the  number was  under 100.  Mr.                                                                    
Taylor  replied   that  the   number  of   people  convicted                                                                    
exclusively for possession was under 100.                                                                                       
Representative Munoz  asked about  the average  sentence for                                                                    
the approximate 100 offenders.                                                                                                  
Mr. Taylor  answered that the  only number he  could provide                                                                    
was the  average length of stay  for the 427, which  was 188                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze commented  on the war-on-drugs warehousing,                                                                    
stating that  the high end  was 93 late  in the fall  of the                                                                    
prior year.  He opined that there  were probably extenuating                                                                    
circumstances because  the state's  system did not  have the                                                                    
capacity for people arrested for simple possession.                                                                             
9:38:50 AM                                                                                                                    
RICHARD   SVOBODNY,   DEPUTY  ATTORNEY   GENERAL,   CRIMINAL                                                                    
DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, made general comments.                                                                             
ANNIE CARPENETI, ASSISTANT  ATTORNEY GENERAL, LEGAL SERVICES                                                                    
SECTION-JUNEAU,  CRIMINAL   DIVISION,  DEPARTMENT   OF  LAW,                                                                    
stated that the  Department of Law (DOL) did  not oppose the                                                                    
bill but  specified three  concerns. The  department's first                                                                    
concern  was sending  the wrong  message  to Alaska'a  youth                                                                    
that, by reducing  possession of some of  the really serious                                                                    
drugs, they would  not consider them as dangerous  to use as                                                                    
they really  were. The department's second  concern was that                                                                    
the   state  did   not   have   probation  supervision   for                                                                    
misdemeanants like it did for  felons. A provision was added                                                                    
to  SB  56  allowing  for supervision  by  Alaska's  Alcohol                                                                    
Safety Action  Program (ASAP) for people  convicted of fifth                                                                    
degree possession.  However, ASAP  supervision was  not like                                                                    
Department of Corrections  supervision for probationers. She                                                                    
continued to explain that ASAP  was an office-based program;                                                                    
ASAP's probation officers  sent a letter to a  judge if they                                                                    
became  aware   of  a  probation  violation.   Whereas,  DOC                                                                    
probation officers  had a very different  protocol; they had                                                                    
a  much more  active hands-on  approach to  supervision. She                                                                    
emphasized  that  people   with  addictions  needed  serious                                                                    
supervision in order to overcome their dependencies.                                                                            
9:43:02 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Carpeneti  communicated the department's  third concern;                                                                    
the bill,  in its current  form, did not  increase treatment                                                                    
opportunities.  People  released   under  the  circumstances                                                                    
required help  such as housing  and rehabilitation  to avoid                                                                    
reentering the life that led to their initial conviction.                                                                       
Mr. Svobodny expressed  his doubts that the  bill would help                                                                    
to  reduce  crime numbers.  He  stated  that untreated  drug                                                                    
users of  the category  of drugs covered  in the  bill (i.e.                                                                    
methamphetamine,  heroin,   and  LSD)   were  a   danger  to                                                                    
themselves  and  their  families.  He  furthered  that  they                                                                    
presented a public safety danger  to the rest of society. He                                                                    
detailed  a survey  he completed  of  the District  Attorney                                                                    
(DA) offices across  the state regarding trends  in drug use                                                                    
in urban areas. He began his  survey in Bethel to get a base                                                                    
by going  outside the urban  areas. He reported  that heroin                                                                    
was  a large  problem  in the  bush.  In interviewing  every                                                                    
other  DA office  he discovered  that black  tar heroin  was                                                                    
widely used  in Alaskan communities.  All urban areas  saw a                                                                    
decrease in  the use of cocaine  and prescription medication                                                                    
and  an increase  in the  use of  cheaper heroin.  He opined                                                                    
that heroin was  a large problem in the State  of Alaska and                                                                    
in  the  country.  He  pointed  out  that  the  governor  of                                                                    
Vermont,   in   his    state-of-the-state   address,   spoke                                                                    
exclusively about the state's existing heroin problem.                                                                          
Mr.  Svobodny  agreed  that the  heroin  problem  in  Alaska                                                                    
needed  to be  dealt with  and applauded  Senator Dyson  for                                                                    
attempting to  address the issue. However,  he expressed his                                                                    
concerns   with   reducing   drug   possession   crimes   to                                                                    
misdemeanors and  did not believe  that SB 56  would address                                                                    
the ancillary  crimes committed by  drug users.  He reported                                                                    
asking  the Anchorage  DA office  about other  problems with                                                                    
drugs. The DA  responded that burglary and  check fraud were                                                                    
the  most  common  crimes associated  with  drug  use.  Both                                                                    
crimes  provided  a  means  to fund  further  drug  use.  He                                                                    
elaborated  that other  consequences accompanied  drug abuse                                                                    
as well.                                                                                                                        
9:49:46 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Svobodny addressed  Representative Munoz's  question by                                                                    
entertaining  another question.  He  asked  how many  people                                                                    
were  incarcerated  for  misconduct involving  a  controlled                                                                    
substance in the fourth-degree,  a class C felony possession                                                                    
charge. He  revealed the  answer was  a range  of 44  to 124                                                                    
people as of  October 1, 2013. The reason for  the range was                                                                    
because at least  half of the people were  charged for other                                                                    
offenses  including felony  assault level  crimes, theft  in                                                                    
the  second-degree, and  probation  revocation. He  asserted                                                                    
that the  police were  not performing  reverse buys  where a                                                                    
policeman  sold drugs  to a  person then  turned around  and                                                                    
charged them with possession.                                                                                                   
9:52:34 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Svobodny addressed  the fact  that people  were getting                                                                    
arrested for  possession offenses because of  other criminal                                                                    
activity.  He  cited that  over  a  period  of ten  years  a                                                                    
sheriff in San  Diego County tested everyone  that came into                                                                    
the jail  on a  specific day once  a quarter  for controlled                                                                    
substances. The  sheriff indicated that 90  percent ingested                                                                    
some  type of  controlled substances  on the  day they  were                                                                    
Mr. Svobodny believed that it  was critical to deal with the                                                                    
people who  were committing the auxiliary  crimes by housing                                                                    
them in  jail. Although the  bill required an  assessment by                                                                    
the Department  of Health  and Social  Services, it  did not                                                                    
fund  assessments, drug  testing,  or residential  treatment                                                                    
programs.  He contended  that it  would be  more likely  for                                                                    
felons  to  receive a  felony  probation  officer who  would                                                                    
require reporting, look for symptoms  of drug use, do random                                                                    
searches, and  perform drug testing than  for a misdemeanant                                                                    
to receive equitable services.                                                                                                  
9:56:15 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stoltze asked whether  Mr. Svobodny would support a                                                                    
reduced  sanction  for  first-time possession  offenders  as                                                                    
proposed by DPS.                                                                                                                
Mr.  Svobodny responded  affirmatively  with hesitation.  He                                                                    
noted that the system would  deal with the changes presented                                                                    
in the bill.                                                                                                                    
Representative Stoltze  wondered whether Mr.  Svobodny would                                                                    
throw  a  case  out  if  the police  initiated  a  sale  and                                                                    
subsequently arrested the buyer for possession.                                                                                 
Mr. Svobodny confirmed that he would throw the case out.                                                                        
9:58:11 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative Guttenberg told of  his experience growing up                                                                    
and the drug availability he  witnessed in New York City and                                                                    
Fairbanks. He  opined that drug  problems had  only worsened                                                                    
in the past 50 years.  He suggested that the continued crack                                                                    
down on  the use of  drugs was an ineffective  deterrent. He                                                                    
acknowledged  Senator Dyson  bringing forth  new legislation                                                                    
on  the issue.  He  surmised that  increasing penalties  and                                                                    
fines did  not help  in reducing  the problem.  He discerned                                                                    
that part  of the  reason for the  legislation was  to avoid                                                                    
having   to   build   more    prisons   and   referenced   a                                                                    
representative from Texas. He  inquired about what worked in                                                                    
past years.                                                                                                                     
9:59:54 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Svobodny relayed  that Jerry  Madden, a  representative                                                                    
from Texas, suggested that rather  than putting drug abusers                                                                    
behind bars they should be  placed in treatment. He asserted                                                                    
that treatment worked.                                                                                                          
Mr. Svobodny  pointed out that  DOC had the ability  to have                                                                    
prisoners  serve  jail  time  at  home  or  with  electronic                                                                    
monitoring. He furthered that the  bill before the committee                                                                    
only partially addressed the problem.                                                                                           
Co-Chair  Stoltze opined  that  the Madden  example did  not                                                                    
translate to Alaska.                                                                                                            
Vice-Chair  Neuman  agreed  with   Mr.  Svobodny  about  the                                                                    
effectiveness of  drug treatment programs for  offenders. He                                                                    
noted that  drug abuse  was an  addiction. He  inferred that                                                                    
low-level  sentencing   did  not   allow  enough   time  for                                                                    
offenders  to  be  placed  into  treatment  prior  to  their                                                                    
release. He stated  that often treatment was  a condition of                                                                    
parole. One  of the challenges  for felons was to  find work                                                                    
to help to  pay for their treatment.  He suggested offenders                                                                    
would potentially  rob from others  to pay for  treatment in                                                                    
order to  meet the conditions  of their parole. He  asked if                                                                    
it was a trend.                                                                                                                 
10:02:50 AM                                                                                                                   
Mr. Svobodny  replied in  the negative. He  did not  want to                                                                    
suggest that longer  jail sentences were a way  to deal with                                                                    
getting offenders  treatment. He  commented that  in dealing                                                                    
with a person with an addiction  it would be better to treat                                                                    
them  for addiction  rather than  putting them  in jail.  He                                                                    
suggested that  the problem was people  were burglarizing to                                                                    
pay  for  their  addiction.  He  opined  that  many  of  the                                                                    
addicted resorted  to being small  distributors in  order to                                                                    
maintain their  habit. He believed  that the state  needed a                                                                    
program  in  place  where  people  addicted  to  drugs  were                                                                    
supervised. He emphasized that  treatment should come before                                                                    
jail time.                                                                                                                      
Co-Chair  Stoltze suggested  that  the bill  would be  heard                                                                    
again before the committee at a later date.                                                                                     
10:05:18 AM                                                                                                                   
Representative Wilson  asked about  the number of  people in                                                                    
jail  with  misdemeanor  charges  and the  length  of  their                                                                    
sentences.  She also  asked if  jail time  for misdemeanants                                                                    
was  affected by  the court  system being  bottlenecked with                                                                    
cases. She wondered if the  problem pertained to a backup in                                                                    
Alaska's  court system  or  whether  felony and  misdemeanor                                                                    
charges needed  to be changed.  She wanted DOL to  come back                                                                    
to  the  committee with  the  answers  to her  questions  at                                                                    
another time.                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Stoltze suggested Representative Wilson meet with                                                                      
Ms. Mead to get the answers to her questions.                                                                                   
HCS CSSB 56(JUD) was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
further consideration.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB160 Sectional Analysis - Legal.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Sectional Analysis.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Athletic Trainer Profession Sheet.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Athletic Trainers Fact Sheet.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter ASAA 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter Daniel Esparza 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter Dennis Sorenson 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter John Jessen 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter John Snead 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter Ryan Theuer 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter Kathleen Navarre 2-20-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB160 Supporting Documents- Letter Michael Vincent 2-21-14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB 160 Email Repsonse from Div CorpBusi Prof Licensing.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB 160 Legal Opinion.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB Athletic Trainer Personal Trainer Comparison.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
HB 121 - CS(FIN) Ver O - 4.4.14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 121
table_5_crime_in_the_united_states_by_state_2012 (1).xls HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
SB 56
SB 56 Prisoners in 2012.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
SB 56
SB 56 Reclassification Presentation Edited 04_10_14.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
SB 56
HB 160 Letter McKee.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
HB 160
04.10.14 DPS Testimony to H FIN on SB 56.pdf HFIN 4/10/2014 8:30:00 AM
SB 56