Senate panel advances rewritten sexual assault-prevention bill

The Senate Education Committee has advanced a rewrite of legislation that would leave as optional sexual assault prevention and awareness programs in Alaska public schools.

The version of the bill that passed the House last month would have made such programs, and those related to dating violence, mandatory. Critics saw this as an unfunded mandate, and the Senate committee rewrite made the programs optional.

The rewrite also incorporated elements from other school-related bills, raising questions about whether doing so went outside the scope of work for the special session called by Gov. Bill Walker. A legal memo from a legislative attorney, requested by the committee chair, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, said there could be a constitutional issue with the committee’s approach, depending on how a court viewed it.