Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/23/2004 03:40 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        SB 246-HATE CRIMES/DISCRIMINATION/TOLERANCE PROG                                                                    
CHAIR GARY STEVENS  announced SB 246 to be  up for consideration.                                                               
He recognized Senator Lincoln.                                                                                                  
SENATOR  GEORGIANNA  LINCOLN, sponsor,  said  she  would give  an                                                               
overview rather than reading the sponsor statement. She stated:                                                                 
     Over  the years  this  committee  and others  certainly                                                                    
     have read and heard news  stories about the hate crimes                                                                    
     that  have been  committed  throughout  our state.  The                                                                    
     most  recent   one  was   November  2003   regarding  a                                                                    
     paintball attack  on a young woman  in Anchorage. There                                                                    
     are  many more  hate  bias motivated  crimes that  take                                                                    
     place that go unreported.                                                                                                  
     Anchorage  reported 67  bias  hate motivated  incidents                                                                    
     with only  17 arrests between  1998 and 2002  when they                                                                    
     began  keeping  records  of hate  motivated  incidents.                                                                    
     Aggravated  assaults against  Alaska  Natives were  the                                                                    
     highest  reported   crime  during  that   time.  Juneau                                                                    
     Douglas  High  School  is  currently  reviewing  recent                                                                    
     racial incidents that have occurred within the school.                                                                     
     A hate crime is  any criminal offense committed against                                                                    
     a person  or property, which  is motivated in  whole or                                                                    
     in  part   by  the  offenders'  biases   against  race,                                                                    
     religion,  ethnic,  national  origin group,  or  sexual                                                                    
     SB 264  was drafted  according to model  legislation by                                                                    
     the Anti  Defamation League that will  be speaking from                                                                    
     Washington D.C.  Currently 46  states and  the District                                                                    
     of  Columbia  have enacted  laws  similar  to the  Anti                                                                    
     Defamation League model.                                                                                                   
TAPE 04-21, SIDE B                                                                                                            
5:15 pm                                                                                                                       
     The current penalty enhancement  statute does not apply                                                                    
     to anyone found  guilty of a misdemeanor  or most first                                                                    
     time  felony  offenders.  Those  crimes  are  presently                                                                    
     excluded from enhancement and  that's really a critical                                                                    
     part  of the  bill. Those  crimes are  now included  in                                                                    
     this bill. As  an example, a person  committing a class                                                                    
     B  misdemeanor would  be  elevated to  face  a class  A                                                                    
     misdemeanor charge  if their actions are  determined to                                                                    
     be motivated  by prejudice bias  or hate. If  the crime                                                                    
     committed  is  a  class  A  misdemeanor,  it  would  be                                                                    
     elevated to a class c felony and so on.                                                                                    
     In the case of the  paintball attack in 2001, which was                                                                    
     videotaped,  one  young  man  was  charged  with  seven                                                                    
     counts of a class A  misdemeanor assault. Had this bill                                                                    
     been enacted,  that individual would have  been charged                                                                    
     with a class C felony.  It's important to note that the                                                                    
     majority  of   hate  crimes  reported  in   Alaska  are                                                                    
     assault,   intimidation,  and   harassment  and   would                                                                    
     therefore be  misdemeanors. Thus  the majority  of hate                                                                    
     crimes  are totally  outside the  scope of  aggravating                                                                    
     factors already in law.                                                                                                    
     Why  is  there a  whole  new  crime of  motivation?  It                                                                    
     serves   merely   as   a   sentence   enhancement   and                                                                    
     enhancements are  the safest, most  constitutional hate                                                                    
     crime laws that we've got.                                                                                                 
     This  bill   also  adds  gender   to  its   hate  crime                                                                    
     legislation.  The  inclusion  of  gender  is  important                                                                    
     because  it sends  a message  that gender  based crimes                                                                    
     also will not be  tolerated. Legislators throughout the                                                                    
     country  have   realized  that   it  is   difficult  to                                                                    
     distinguish  the race  based  and  religion based  hate                                                                    
     crimes from gender-based crimes.                                                                                           
     What  sets the  hate crimes  apart from  other acts  of                                                                    
     violence is  the psychological  damage that  they leave                                                                    
     behind.   The    American   Psychological   Association                                                                    
     determined  that  victims  of hate  crimes  suffer  the                                                                    
     symptoms  of  posttraumatic  stress disorder  and  that                                                                    
     there  are social  and economic  ramifications to  this                                                                    
     type of crime as well.                                                                                                     
     Of all  racial groups in Alaska,  Alaska Natives suffer                                                                    
     the highest  rate of victimization.  We really  have to                                                                    
     educate those around  us, those that we  work with, our                                                                    
     young  people,  that  we   must  condemn  those  crimes                                                                    
     against humanity.                                                                                                          
     If there's  a way that  we can prevent  hatred, prevent                                                                    
     bias  because   of  different  races  and   because  of                                                                    
     different religions then we ought to do that.                                                                              
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS apologized for  the lateness of the  hour and                                                               
noted that  he and  Senator Stedman  had a  meeting to  attend in                                                               
just ten  minutes. There were  a number  of people who  wanted to                                                               
testify, but  there wasn't time  to hear from everyone.  The bill                                                               
would be heard in the  Judiciary Committee next and everyone that                                                               
wasn't  able to  testify would  have an  opportunity to  speak at                                                               
that time.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  BERT  STEDMAN  remarked  that this  is  a  society  wide                                                               
problem. He noted  that the analysis on hate  crimes between 1998                                                               
to 2002 shows  there were 15 incidents with  Blacks, 15 incidents                                                               
with Alaska Natives  3 concerning Whites, two  Islamic, and three                                                               
MIKE  LEBERMAN,  Washington  Counsel   for  the  Anti  Defamation                                                               
League, testified via  teleconference in support of  SB 246. Hate                                                               
crime  statutes  are  very important  and  they  compliment  bias                                                               
education work. It's best to  prevent these crimes before they're                                                               
committed but  once they do  occur, the law shapes  attitudes and                                                               
to have a  broad inclusive statute in Alaska  would be important.                                                               
This would  add sexual  orientation, which  is important  and for                                                               
the  first time  the important  qualifier, "actual  or perceived"                                                               
would be put into Alaska law.                                                                                                   
These  statutes   are  unquestionably  constitutional   and  were                                                               
ratified by the United States  Supreme Court in 1993. He couldn't                                                               
speak  to the  sentencing  scheme because  different states  have                                                               
different  penalty  structures.  However,  they  do  support  the                                                               
concept and approach wholeheartedly.                                                                                            
NICK    KOTAVICH,   Tlingit    Haida   Youth    Leadership   Team                                                               
representative, spoke in  support of SB 246. He is  the leader of                                                               
Undoing Racism,  which is comprised  of the JDHS  Student Council                                                               
and Tlingit Haida Youth Leadership Team. He said:                                                                               
     This bill, if pushed, will  send a message to those who                                                                    
     have  harassed   Natives  to  the  point   of  physical                                                                    
     violence that it will no longer be tolerated.                                                                              
     A  boy at  my  school continually  harassed  me to  the                                                                    
     point of physical violence because  I was Native. After                                                                    
     beating  me up,  he  did  it to  at  least three  other                                                                    
     Natives. If this  bill is passed, you  as Senators will                                                                    
     be  imposing  consequences   that  will  prevent  these                                                                    
     racial behaviors  from continuing and make  our state a                                                                    
     safer place for all youths.                                                                                                
NATALIE LANDRITH, staff attorney  with the Native American Rights                                                               
Fund in Anchorage, spoke via  teleconference in strong support of                                                               
SB 246. She said she would  focus on three specific legal aspects                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
   · WHY A SPECIAL LAW FOR HATE CRIMES: Each hate crime has many                                                                
     victims and the aim is  to terrorize a victim simply because                                                               
     they  are a  member  of a  group. The  result  is that  each                                                               
     member  of the  group is  a victim.  The U.S.  Department of                                                               
     Justice's policy guide to hate  crimes characterizes them as                                                               
     a  virus  that  quickly   spreads  feelings  of  terror  and                                                               
     loathing  across  an  entire  community.  The  psychological                                                               
     impact on that group is far,  wide, and lasting. They send a                                                               
     powerful message  to the  group that  they aren't  wanted or                                                               
   · HOW BIG IS THIS PROBLEM: They don't know. Eighty-five                                                                      
     percent  of  the  jurisdictions  across  the  country  don't                                                               
     report  any  hate  crime  activity  so  Alaska  is  a  small                                                               
     minority that has  a measurable hate crime  problem. They do                                                               
     know  that Natives  are the  most likely  to be  affected by                                                               
     hate crimes.                                                                                                               
   · DON'T HATE CRIME LAWS CONFLICT WITH FREE SPEECH: That has                                                                  
     been covered  in previous testimony,  but she wanted  to add                                                               
     that SB 246  does not conflict. It fits  squarely within the                                                               
     floor and ceiling set by the U.S. Supreme Court.                                                                           
SB  246  would  send  a  message that  Alaska  isn't  willing  to                                                               
tolerate the  victimization of  Natives and  others. "It  sends a                                                               
message to the  targets of hate crimes that they  are welcome and                                                               
the law will protect them.  It expresses a collective belief that                                                               
Alaska is stronger when we protect all of our citizens."                                                                        
DON BREMMER thanked  the committee for putting him  on the roster                                                               
considering the  lateness of  the hour but  he said,  it's really                                                               
the lateness of getting this  kind of legislation passed that the                                                               
committee should be  discussing. At some point,  Natives will get                                                               
tired  of waiting  patiently for  such legislation.  He made  the                                                               
point that this bill addresses  the end result of what minorities                                                               
are  now facing  at  Juneau  Douglas High  School  and have  been                                                               
facing for generations.                                                                                                         
MR BREMMER  gave members  copies of his  written testimony  and a                                                               
copy may be found in the bill file.                                                                                             
BARBARA BRINK  stated that she  would reserve her  comments until                                                               
the Judiciary Committee heard the bill.                                                                                         
JOSH FINK said he too would reserve his comments.                                                                               
CHAIR GARY STEVENS apologized for the time constraints.                                                                         
DENISE  MORRIS, President  of the  Alaska  Native Justice  Center                                                               
(ANJC),  stated  that  ANJC,  through   the  board  of  directors                                                               
supports passage of  SB 246. She drew attention to  the fact that                                                               
as  a member  of the  bipartisan  State of  Alaska Commission  on                                                               
Tolerance,  which  was  created  in  part  as  a  result  of  the                                                               
Anchorage  paint ball  incident, one  of the  recommendations was                                                               
the passage of hate crime legislation.                                                                                          
Although  people don't  like to  think about  or don't  know that                                                               
hate crimes  occur, they do  and the psychological impact  on the                                                               
victims  is substantial.  A number  of the  victims of  the paint                                                               
ball  attack were  severely  traumatized when  they  had to  give                                                               
their victim  impact statements. In  both the Poindexter  and the                                                               
Hunter  hate crime  serial  rapist cases  in  Anchorage, all  the                                                               
identified  victims were  Alaska  Native women.  In fact,  Alaska                                                               
Native women  are 4.5 times more  likely to be a  homicide victim                                                               
than any other rape across the United States.                                                                                   
"The  bill  reflects our  values  and  signals that  hate  crimes                                                               
motivated are  especially tragic.  SB 264 alone  cannot eliminate                                                               
bias and hate.  We cannot legislate the hearts of  people, but we                                                               
should hold  them accountable for their  actions, especially when                                                               
those actions  are motivated by  prejudice, bias and  hatred." It                                                               
is time for this legislation, she said.                                                                                         
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked her to send her written testimony.                                                                     
Celeste Hodge,  Deputy Director  and Community  Outreach Liaison,                                                               
testified  via teleconference  on behalf  of the  Municipality of                                                               
Anchorage in support of SB 246.                                                                                                 
She said she was president of the  NAACP for over a decade and in                                                               
that capacity,  she worked endlessly  to combat racism.  Even so,                                                               
hate  crimes  continue  to  plague  the nation  and  are  on  the                                                               
She described  SB 246  as important  legislation and  a necessary                                                               
tool to help fight the  continuing problem of hate crimes against                                                               
people because of their race,  religion, national origin, gender,                                                               
disability  or   sexual  orientation.  It  signals   that  crimes                                                               
motivated by  hate are especially reprehensible  because they are                                                               
not  merely  crimes  against an  individual,  but  rather  crimes                                                               
against the entire community.                                                                                                   
I would urge passage of SB 246 as written, she said.                                                                            
CHAIR GARY  STEVENS asked  her to send  her written  testimony to                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  
A.  W. FULLENWIDER,  standing committee  member of  the Anchorage                                                               
Equal Rights  Commission, spoke as  a private citizen  in support                                                               
of  SB 246.  Hate  crimes strike  fear in  people  who have  done                                                               
nothing wrong,  but are members  of an identifiable group.  It is                                                               
the government's  responsibility to  ensure equal  protection for                                                               
all, she asserted.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  GARY STEVENS  thanked Senator  Lincoln for  presenting the                                                               
bill and asked if she had concluding remarks.                                                                                   
SENATOR LINCOLN said she was  comfortable with the testimony that                                                               
was given.                                                                                                                      
CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a motion.                                                                                          
SENATOR BERT STEDMAN motioned to  pass SB 246 from committee with                                                               
individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note.                                                                        
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    

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