October 2, 2017
Representing District 16 in East Anchorage including College Gate, Northeast Anchorage, Nunaka Valley, Russian Jack and Reflection Lake neighborhoods.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

There has been a lot of discussion about rising crime rates and criminal justice reform as enacted in SB91. There is no arguing that crime rates are rising in Alaska— according to the Alaska Justice Center they have been rising since 2014. My heart goes out to those who have been hurt as a result—it’s terrible to have your home or property violated.

It’s interesting that until 2014, crime rates had been dropping since they peaked in 1986 during a deep recession. A recent Alaska Dispatch report has some solid analysis of the 2016 Uniform Crime Report. This report shows a clear link between our economy and crime rates. This issue is most startlingly illustrated by burglary rates which peaked in 1985, rose again in 1992 and 1995 and then have generally been dropping until 2011. Burglary rates are now at an 18 year high.
The House will take up SB54 which aims to make some course corrections to SB91 including addressing C-felony penalties, misdemeanor penalties, and violations of conditions of release. The bill addresses sentencing for both first time and repeat offenders by giving prosecutors more latitude to seek jail time. This is an important step, but there are other steps that must be taken as well.

Given that crime rates were on the rise for several years before any part SB91 went into effect we need to be looking more deeply for the root causes. For me, a key takeaway from the Uniform Crime Report (See above) is that when the economy is in crisis crime rises. 

Other complicating factors are cuts to prosecutors, State Troopers, local law enforcement, and substance addiction treatment. We can’t fight a growing opioid epidemic and crime if we don’t have the proper tools in place. We must deal with our fiscal situation or we are destined to see crime grow regardless of any other changes we make to the law.

If you want to learn more about how our budget situation has impacted our ability to respond to and prevent crime, I encourage you to tune in to a House Finance budget subcommittee hearing on Thursday. You can attend in person or live stream it at http://akl.tv .

WHO: Staff with the Legislative Finance Division and the Departments of Public Safety, Administration, Corrections, and Law; and leaders in criminal justice and law enforcement in Alaska

WHAT: House Finance Budget Subcommittees for the Departments of Public Safety, Administration, Corrections, and Law

WHERE: Anchorage Legislative Information Office, 1500 W. Benson Blvd., 2nd Floor Conference Room

WHEN: Thursday, October 5, 1:00 p.m. until approximately 5:00 p.m.

Live stream: http://akl.tv

I want to assure you that I am deeply concerned about rising crime in Anchorage and Alaska . I will be diligently working on SB54 in preparation for our upcoming Special Session.
Senior Benefits Hearing
I recently chaired a meeting of the Health and Social Services Senior Benefits Subcommittee on Rep. Scott Kawasaki’s HB236 extending the Senior Benefits program to 2022. The Senior Benefits Program--which offers low income seniors in Alaska a modest amount of assistance ranging from $250 to $76 per month--is due to expire June 30, 2018. We heard testimony from Alaskans throughout the state including in Kotlik, Wasillia, Bethel, Fairbanks, Tok, Homer and everywhere in between. If you or someone you know receives Senior Benefits and would like to add your testimony, please send an email to seniorbenefits@akleg.gov

Fiscal Situation
Finally, it is important that we don’t forget that our fiscal situation has a real impact on crime rates and the well-being of our state. It is essential that we do not lose focus on the need to resolve our fiscal situation. Without resolving our fiscal situation, crime will continue to rise regardless of any work we do on SB54. During the Special Session, we will be examining Governor Walker’s flat payroll tax . I encourage you to review the Governor’s proposal and send me your thoughts about it and how I should represent the District on this issue. 

To learn about other upcoming events and meetings, like my Facebook page and visit often. Feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions or concerns at (907) 269-0123 or rep.ivy.spohnholz@akleg.gov ! I am here to work for you!