Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 120
03/25/2015 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY
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HCR 1-GOVERNOR: TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY AND JURIS. HJR 3-CONGRESS: NATIVE TRIBAL JURIS. & AUTHORITY 1:04:03 PM CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 1, Urging the Governor to acknowledge officially the sovereignty of Alaska tribal governments, to create clear and consistent policies for increased state collaboration and partnership with tribes, and to direct the attorney general to conduct a complete review of the state's litigation against Alaska Native tribes; urging the Governor to acknowledge the inherent criminal jurisdiction of Alaska tribal governments over tribal members within the boundaries of their villages; urging the Governor to cooperate with tribes' efforts to transfer Native land to trust; and urging the Governor to support multilateral negotiations between tribal governments, nontribal municipalities, and the state government to delineate clearly tribal geographical jurisdictions, and HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 3, Urging members of the Alaska delegation to the United States Congress to introduce substantially similar legislation to the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2013; urging the United States Congress to affirm the criminal jurisdiction of Alaska tribal governments over tribal members within the boundaries of their villages; urging the United States Congress to cooperate with tribes' efforts to transfer Native land to trust; and supporting multilateral negotiations between tribal governments, nontribal municipalities, and the state and federal governments to delineate clearly tribal geographical jurisdictions. [The committee continued its specific discussions on HCR 1 and HJR 3 later in the meeting.] 1:04:12 PM REPRESENTATIVE BRYCE EDGMON, Alaska State Legislature, stated that the two resolutions [HCR 1 and HJR 3] before the committee are being put forward in tandem because they essentially are the same vehicles with HCR 1 being delivered to Governor Bill Walker, and HJR 3 being delivered to the United States Congressional Delegation. The intent of the resolutions is to bring attention to the increased role that tribal entities in the State of Alaska can provide in terms of better law enforcements and criminal justice services at the local level, and also to recognize the fact that the current system of highly centralized being provided through state agencies in large measure has in many instances failed to succeed. He pointed out that by recognizing that Alaska tribes can play a greater role in providing criminal justice services in Alaska has merit and deserves the attention of the legislature, executive branch, and Congressional Delegation. He noted that in a number of Alaska communities per se are still facing severe problems related to poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, suicides and a number of other social ills that in some communities are moving forward at an epidemic level. He opined that these two resolutions, and the fact that Alaskan tribes can play a larger role in committing to criminal justice services fits in that category. He pointed to the State of Texas that has taken a number of measures to instill "smart justice" policies, and in doing so reduced the recidivism rate by 25 percent, save approximately $3 billion in building new prisons, reduced its prison rates by 10 percent, and crime rate by approximately 20 percent. He said in arguing that Alaska tribes deserve more recognition, clearer and more consistent policies with Alaska State agencies, deserve attention at the Congressional level the Women and Safe Families Act would have provided had it been approved, are very worthy of the legislature's consideration. He pointed out that in the last 25 years there have a number of studies from various commissions, boards, and entities that have all essentially pointed to the same thing - if Alaska had more culturally sensitive law enforcement measures at the village level, that in looking through the eyes of reformative justice created not only just the offenders but also the victims and community itself. In that manner, recidivism could be brought down and reduce the high percentage of young Alaska Native males that enter into Alaska's criminal justice system. He suggested that at the misdemeanor level with minor offenses and then graduate up into felony offenses that end up populating the Department of Corrections (DOC) primarily at the rate of $158 per day or almost $60 thousand a year. 1:09:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON explained that the two resolutions have a lot of merit in promoting criminal justice measures at the tribal level in small Alaskan communities. He further explained that in downsizing state government to offer Alaskan tribes a greater role in misdemeanor cases and minor offenses at the local level, the legislature can reduce the amount of outflow of villages into the criminal justice arena. He noted that at the same time save the State of Alaska money and help to get rural Alaska directly on the pathway to reformative justice. He said it includes rural Alaska and the rest of the state notwithstanding. 1:10:37 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked whether these resolutions relate to two separate systems of justice, one for Alaska Natives and one for everyone else. REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON responded that the resolutions are non- binding, and that HCR 1 calls for better communication and recognition between the state agencies and the tribal entities that are providing "circle sentencing" or tribal court services at the local tribal community level. He stated that in no manner do the resolutions suggest that tribal court services associate itself with felony offenses, of which are under the purview of the Alaska State Troopers and the law of the land. He suggested that tribes be active in terms of more minor offenses at the community level. He remarked that CSHCR 1, asks that the state take engaging state agencies in working with the tribes on a community-by-community basis to have a better relationship and recognition. Possibly, he related, some of the minor offenses could be dealt with in a culturally sensitive manner in the local village that arrests certain behavior. He used the example of the 14-year old young man in Togiak who shot a dog and was deported almost immediately to the McLaughlin Youth Center Facility. Subsequently, he offered, six weeks later the boy was allowed to go home. Fortunately, that individual did not go down the pathway of the "broken window theory" of engaging in a more serious offenses only to become a felon in the criminal justice system doing no one any good and costing the state a lot of money. He said the two resolutions entertain a better dialogue for better communication between Alaska tribes and state agencies and that possibly at the Congressional level there could be a bill similar to the bill offered a couple of years ago that provided for recognition of more criminal jurisdiction for Alaska tribes. He said the resolutions are not providing answers or saying that they provide the framework that might be in place between DOC or the Department of Public Safety and a local village. He reiterated that the resolutions encourage the Department of Public Safety to work more closely with local villages to employ measures regarding minor offenses that could be dealt with at the local tribal level. 1:14:25 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN referred to the sponsor's comments regarding tribal government and asked whether he meant the city councils in various villages. REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON responded that Alaska has 229 federally recognized tribes which is approximately 40 percent of all of the tribes in the United States. He related that these tribes function at various levels as some have active tribal courts, some are just forming tribal courts, and some have no tribal courts at all. He explained that communities like Kake, and other communities with more active tribal courts, have seen positive results in the engagement of local tribal entities regarding misdemeanor and minor offenses which do not involve felonies. 1:15:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE LYNN referred to non-Natives living in primarily Native areas and asked about cultural sensitivity for them. He further asked if non-Natives are subject to the tribal government. HJR 3-CONGRESS: NATIVE TRIBAL JURIS. & AUTHORITY 2:08:53 PM CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 3, Urging members of the Alaska delegation to the United States Congress to introduce substantially similar legislation to the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2013; urging the United States Congress to affirm the criminal jurisdiction of Alaska tribal governments over tribal members within the boundaries of their villages; urging the United States Congress to cooperate with tribes' efforts to transfer Native land to trust; and supporting multilateral negotiations between tribal governments, nontribal municipalities, and the state and federal governments to delineate clearly tribal geographical jurisdictions. 2:09:18 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG asked a threshold question in that HJR 3 appeared to be directed at a particular bill introduced in the last Congress that did not pass, but he did not have a copy. 2:09:59 PM TIM CLARK, Staff, Representative Bryce Edgmon, Alaska State Legislature, advised the bill reference in its entirety is part of the bill packet. He advised it is United States Senate Bill 1474. 2:10:45 PM MR. CLARK pointed out that the two resolutions before the committee are very closely related as the Preambles are nearly identical. He noted the goals are also closely related in terms of trying to address devastating social strife in rural communities, it is the Resolves that differ. He said HJR 3, is directed toward Congress and asks it to introduce legislation substantially similar to the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2013. The federal legislation, he explained, would establish a pilot project of which will provide a number of tribal communities with increased federal funding. He further explained that the federal funding would be for their tribal courts and law enforcement needs, enhanced authority over domestic violence and child abuse neglect, greater local law enforcement responsibilities to combat drug and alcohol abuse, and improve coordination between federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies. He related that it comes back to the recommendations of a task force and commission after another over a 25-30 year period. Wherein many concluded over and over again that greater control, greater responsibility at the local level would lead to swifter response to violence and criminal activity, increased crime prevention, and sentencing models more culturally appropriate and more rehabilitative as opposed to punitive in some but not all cases, he pointed out. 2:13:02 PM CHAIR LEDOUX opened public testimony 2:13:08 PM RON SUMMERVILLE, said that Mary Bishop testified to a concern of many people which is the fragmenting of the state's jurisdiction in creating some sort of an anomaly which exists primarily in reservations outside. He remarked that having grown up in a small Native community, he appreciates efforts to bring issues to light as there are serious problems. The problems in the villages are problems the legislature and various communities have and remarked that the question is how much recognition of tribal jurisdiction is the answer. He pointed out that Representative Keller asked whether other options are available and he said he would support obtaining additional jurisdiction to tribal governments if they demonstrate they can handle it. He related that he comes from Craig and that the cities of Craig and Klawock have offered examples of tribal government and courts issuing proclamations. However, he remarked, that the conflict with the Alaska State Constitution is what concerns him when looking at HJR 3 which is asking Congress to pass something to provide more jurisdiction and authority to the tribal courts. He expressed that he lived through D2, subsistence, and the unintended consequences that occurred with the federal government passing legislation that Alaska had no control over. He related that the legislature requires that the State of Alaska must concur in any action by Congress in giving the authority as it must be concurred upon by the state. The passage of the subsistence provision in federal law was a horrible mistake in many cases, as there is now an unwanted fragmented system in the court systems, however, jurisdiction is given to the tribal courts. 2:18:44 PM MARY BISHOP, referred to an article in the committee packets entitled Tribal Jurisdiction in Alaska, and read "In years to come the trend in Alaska appears to be moving toward increased collaboration between the state, tribes, and respective courts. The (indisc.) have much to share with each other. Ultimately, the more access to justice Alaska's tribal members have, especially in the remote villages, the better for our state's health and safety overall." She encouraged the committee to go slow and (indisc.) HJR 3. 2:19:59 PM CHAIR LEDOUX closed public testimony after ascertaining no one further wished to testify. 2:20:19 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG commented that the resolution appears to specifically urge Alaska's delegation to introduce something similar to a federal bill entitled The Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2013. He said apparently the [federal] bill was "reported with an amendment," and asked whether the bill in the packet contains the amendment, or whether it was in the form of a committee substitute, and what happened to the bill. 2:21:26 PM MR. CLARK advised that the act was originally introduced in 2011, and by the time it reached the 113th Congress, second session, work had been performed on it. He said he does not know specifically what the changes were going forward. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG requested the exact text of the bill and the committee report, as those reports often include arguments for the bill, minority views, and the bill's status. MR. CLARK pointed back to the language of the resolution which requests legislation substantially similar, to what can be interpreted as a bill, including the major provisions. He asked for clarification as to whether Representative Gruenberg was requesting a more specific definition ... REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG interjected that the lawyers and members on the House Judiciary Standing Committee need to see more specifics. 2:23:17 PM MR. CLARK added that some of the public comments had expressed worries that in endorsing federal legislation the state would somehow be run roughshod over it. He pointed to the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act of 2013, which has provisions that it is a demonstration project being put forward by federal legislation ... conceivably a handful of villages. He offered that every step along the way a village's eligibility would depend upon it having first negotiated an agreement over these exact issues with the State of Alaska. He explained that no village would be eligible for the demonstration project that did not first have an agreement with the State of Alaska, as the state comes first in this legislation. In terms of Mr. Summerville's misgivings over the capacities of these tribal institutions, the federal legislation also addresses each village's eligibility with the capacity of its specific institution, quality and thoroughness of its tribal constitution, quality and thoroughness of its ordinances and laws, and the fact that all of those institutions and capacities would be reviewed by the Department of Justice before allowed into the program. 2:25:27 PM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG noted that the key language in HJR 3 is found on page 3, lines 1-12, as regardless of whatever else is in the federal bill, the interests the sponsor has are certain provisions involving the establishment of a demonstration project. He asked if that is all the sponsor is asking the committee to endorse it may be all the information needed in front of the committee. He said that part of the problem, highlighted in Senator Dan Sullivan's address, is that few votes were taken on the Senate floor last year. He opined that the United States Senate is either combining bills or limiting to appropriation, he was not sure. 2:27:40 PM REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN posited that the 2013 act was supported by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Begich. MR. CLARK answered that the initial bill was amended by Senator Lisa Murkowski on the United States Senate floor to exclude Alaska Natives, but later changed her position and co-sponsored a similar bill with then Senator Begich. REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN assumed that Senator Lisa Murkowski would continue to support the bill and asked where Senator Sullivan is on this bill. MR. CLARK said he does not have any idea as he has not had correspondence with Senator Sullivan. He explained that the jurisdiction issues in general in Congress and treatment of the jurisdictional issues with Alaska tribes has been a struggle. Clearly, he noted that under Venetie, where the United States Supreme Court unanimously said that under ANCSA (1971) it transfers 4-5 million acres and 1 billion dollars to the State of Alaska in exchange for all title and all sovereignty to their land. He noted that the United States Supreme Court said emphatically that Indian Country does not exist in Alaska. The bill Senators Begich and Lisa Murkowski supported attempted to work around that distinction in addressing the epidemic problems of social issues with Alaska Natives, while recognizing that Indian Country largely did not exist in Alaska. He opined that the request for Senators Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski to take additional time to consider the issue is justified as it is a complicated issue from that standpoint. 2:30:39 PM CHAIR LEDOUX asked for clarification as to whether there is one place in Alaska where it is Indian Country. MR. CLARK responded Metlakatla. CHAIR LEDOUX asked if this idea had been tried in Metlakatla as it seems like a great place to start things out where there wouldn't be the problem with Indian Country versus non-Indian Country. MR. CLARK responded that the resolution addresses the other 228 or so tribes and their systemic problems with providing criminal justice services and the attendant social problems at epidemic levels. He opined that he does not think Metlakatla experiences the same level of social disruption and violence as other Alaska villages. CHAIR LEDOUX held HJR 3 in committee. 2:32:09 PM