Two lawmakers introduced a group of bills today designed to fix issues within the Alaska National Guard.
Anchorage Democrats Chris Tuck and Bill Wielechowski made the announcement at a press conference inside the new Legislative Information Office in downtown Anchorage.
The first of the three bills aims to change reporting procedures in the Guard for crimes like sexual assault, protect victims from retaliation, and prosecute cases in civilian courts. Retired Lieutenant Ken Blaylock blew the whistle on crimes within the Guard, and spoke as part of the event. He explained the measure eliminates inappropriate and criminal actions that have been taking place with impunity for the last 20 years.
“This type of thing would force a record,” Blaylock said. “You have a lot of leaders that make statements, but they don’t produce paperwork with a signature on it saying ‘I’m the one that made this decision,’ so things are just dropped, and a victim comes forward and complains and is basically ignored.”
Another bill revises the Uniform Code of Military Justice that guides legal procedures within the Guard. The highly technical document hasn’t changed since statehood.
“Right now, when there are offenses in the Guard they are typically handled as personnel actions,” said Senator Wielechowski. “By adding and changing the Uniform Code of Military Justice we would be creating a criminal justice system within the Guard.”
“I know people are concerned about cost,” Wielechowski said in response to a question about push-back he anticipates. “We think this can be handled by and large by the resources that the Guard has.”
A third bill creates a legal mechanism for private companies to give veterans priority in hiring.
No Republicans have signed on to the legislation so far. Representative Tuck says the absence of any Republican co-sponsors has more to do with timetables than with politics.
“This isn’t one party versus the other party type legislation,” Tuck said. “This is doing something that’s best for all of Alaska. So we hope that going forward we’ll have a lot of support and a lot of ideas coming from the whole Legislature.”
The Legislative session in Juneau starts Tuesday.