After holding the bill for three weeks, the Senate Finance Committee has unveiled a new version of the Alaska Safe Children’s Act — known nationally as “Erin’s Law.” APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that some controversial riders were removed on Wednesday.
When lawmakers last saw the Alaska Safe Children’s Act, it was in a mutant form. In a push by Mat-Su Republicans, the sexual abuse prevention bill had grown from three pages to 12, and it had picked up sections that banned schools from contracting with Planned Parenthood and that let students opt out of standardized testing. Most troublesome to the bill’s sponsors: It gutted the original legislation by making the establishment of sexual abuse prevention programs optional.
The substitute offered by the Senate Finance Committee kept the length of the last iteration. But as Soldotna Republican Peter Micciche explained, the content hewed much closer to the original bill.
<<”A lot of the changes in here are related to the initial bill, like the task force. Some of it added extra space, but it doesn’t change the effectiveness of the Erin and Bree Law sections.”>>
The new version requires adults who volunteer with children for at least four hours a week to be mandatory reporters, and it creates a task force to create age-appropriate curricula for different grades. The bill gives that task force until 2017 to develop the program before it becomes compulsory for schools. Sen. Anna MacKinnon, an Eagle River Republican, gave the reason for the task force.
“There is no intention by myself or anyone I’ve been speaking with to delay anything, but only try to perfect — or at least improve — the outcomes of safety for kids in our schools,” said MacKinnon.
The Senate Finance Committee also stripped many of the additions that were not germane to the original bill. Mat-Su Republican Mike Dunleavy was responsible for some of those riders, with the idea of turning the Alaska Safe Children’s Act into an omnibus “parental rights” bill. He asked MacKinnon if his changes had been removed.
DUNLEAVY: Just a quick clarification — the section on parental rights is totally out of this, correct?
MACKINNON: Sen. Dunleavy, that is not correct. It depends on perspective.
MacKinnon went on to say the “controversial” components had been taken out.
When the committee took testimony on the bill later in the day, most members of the public expressed support for the committee’s actions. A box of tissues sat next to the microphone, and person after person came up and told their own stories of abuse.
Butch Moore spoke of his daughter Bree Moore, the namesake of the dating violence section of the bill. Bree was murdered last year, and her boyfriend was charged. Butch Moore said it’s hard for him to argue about different kinds of parental rights when his daughter is dead.
“Our parental rights have been taken away and stripped away from us,” said Moore. “Our parental rights have been violated more than anyone’s.”
At a press conference, Gov. Bill Walker also applauded the changes, adding that it bodes well for the Legislature concluding its special session and reaching a deal on the budget in the coming days.