From Senator Jesse Kiehl <[email protected]>
Subject Welcome to the Real Deal With Kiehl!
Date April 8, 2023 12:26 AM
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
Deep Thoughts for a Big Weekend Deep Thoughts for a Big Weekend April 7, 2023 Dear Friends and Neighbors, It's a holiday-heavy weekend! Passover, Easter, and Ramadan all coincide. That's happened fewer than four dozen times since the most recent of the three holidays came into existence. This week I'm grappling with how to approach a really difficult bill. I'd love your thoughts on it. Read on, I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend! It was great fun talking about the art in the Capitol with art students from UAS! Deja Vu Four people. That's how many people AMHS hired last year. With 200+ applicants, they hired four people. I find that… frustrating. There are unavoidable problems with running a ferry system, like stormy seas. There are expensive problems, like replacing old ships. But hiring and paying employees is pretty basic. Unfortunately, a slew of state agencies are having basic problems. We’re losing workers at many agencies faster than we can bring them on. And the payroll system is so dysfunctional, workers with unusual schedules (think wildland firefighters or correctional officers) often wait weeks (sometimes months) for paychecks, or to get pay errors fixed. The state is struggling to keep up on other basic parts of running a big operation, too: IT support, accounting, and employee travel. Nobody has those on their list of the most important things government does. But without them, the rest of government can’t work. Prisons can’t shut down for the weekend. Pioneer's Homes can't skip a week of meals if the grocery bill doesn't get paid. So what’s causing the trouble? It’s not just one thing. We’ve been cutting state budgets for years, and you can only do so much with less. But there are some structural issues too. Over the past few years the executive branch has consolidated a lot of services. People who did hiring or IT at agencies now work in centralized offices at the Department of Administration. The idea is to be more efficient, and there are some things it makes sense to standardize statewide (think cybersecurity or payroll for general government workers.) Other things are more specialized. Wildland firefighting payroll comes to mind, along with Troopers and correctional officers. The programmers for highly specialized systems are another set it's hard to standardize. To the governor's credit, he proposes unwinding a couple parts of the centralized services that don’t make sense. They’re going to have the Department of Transportation take back AMHS payroll and the Department of Natural Resources take back their specialized IT. I’ve been taking a close look and working with the Department of Administration to see what other changes can make government more efficient and functional. In the years I’ve worked in state government Alaska has centralized services, and decentralized them, and centralized them, and… you get the idea. Maybe there's nothing new under the sun and we'll ride this teeter totter forever. Or maybe—just maybe—we won't go full tilt one way or the other and we can find a good balance this time. I had the pleasure of meeting with some young interns with the Marine Exchange! When Rights and Right Collide Most of the time, deciding how to vote on the Senate Floor is easy. Roughly half or two-thirds of votes are common sense approaches to well-defined problems, and they pass unanimously. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult—the problem is thornier, and what a legislator considers a ‘good’ solution varies with their values. Those bills sometimes pass along party lines. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved out a third type of bill—Senate Bill 53. It’s one with intensely complex issues and serious drawbacks that go hand-in-hand with potential benefits. SB 53 was drafted in response to an unprovoked stabbing at an Anchorage library. The man holding the knife had previously been found so severely disabled by mental illness that he was incompetent to stand trial for earlier assaults. I met with the victim of the library attack. Her strength, resilience, and kindness will bowl you over. Her life got flipped upside down, and filled with physical and emotional scars. Even still, she has compassion for her attacker as she works to close loopholes in Alaska law that let this to happen to her. SB 53 proposes to close those loopholes by addressing two different but related systems that play a part in protecting the public and providing services to the mentally ill: competency and involuntary commitment. When someone is accused of a crime they (or their lawyer) occasionally claim they’re so severely disabled by mental illness they can’t even understand the charges against them and lack the ability to help with their own trial. If the doctors agree, the accused goes through a “competency restoration” period, where mental health pros work to get the defendant functional enough to stand trial. It’s a tiny sliver of criminal cases, but it happens often enough that the ten competency restoration beds at Alaska Psychiatric Institute have a long wait list. Defendants do that waiting in jail. Once they get into API, there’s up to a year to get them back on their feet. If that doesn’t work, the charges are dropped. SB 53 would add more competency restoration time, so someone could be in restorative treatment for almost two years. That’s helpful (although it will make the wait list longer.) But some folks don’t get better. If that person is legally incompetent and still dangerous, the involuntary commitment process is supposed to kick in. Today, it’s not exactly any one agency’s job to file for that. That creates a risk of someone who genuinely isn’t safe to be out in society just walking away. SB 53 fixes that by making sure the Department of Law files commitment proceedings when someone can’t be restored to competency, and poses a continuing danger to the public. Here’s where it starts to get fraught. The government can only lock you up when you haven’t been convicted of a crime for very limited reasons. That’s important. There are places in the world today where dissidents and malcontents disappear into jails or locked mental ‘hospitals’ without a trial. Not in America. Today, if you’re seriously mentally ill and pose an imminent risk of harm to yourself or others, a judge can order you committed for treatment. The burden of proving that you qualify is on the government. You get to have a lawyer and a full hearing. And the state can only hold you until you no longer pose that threat. Six months is the longest commitment period available. So every six months, if the state still thinks you’re an imminent danger, it has to prove it again. Those things protect our freedom. But they also mean the victim of a senseless, brutal attack like the one at the Anchorage library gets a fresh notice every six months that the stabber might get out. That can be pretty traumatizing. SB 53 would allow a commitment of up to five years at a time if a person has been charged with a felony-level crime against a person and has been found incompetent to stand trial. But unlike our 6-month commitments, the doctors couldn’t let you out if, in their medical judgment, you got better. They’d have to go to court and show you weren’t dangerous anymore. That’s a huge switch. And it’s a troubling one because it makes the commitment less about medical treatment and much more like a prison sentence—for someone who was never even tried. If at some point during the five years a patient disagrees with the government’s decision that they’re dangerous, the bill lets the patient ask for a hearing. If the judge keeps you in, you wouldn’t be allowed to ask again for a year. But again, instead of the government having to show you’re still dangerous it would be your job to show you’re not. I can’t think of any other situation in Alaska law where a person who was never convicted of a crime has to prove they’re not dangerous to make the government unlock the door. I worry that flies in the face of the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions. This gets more complicated when we step back from the hypotheticals. Today, we’re not talking about potential abuses of the system. We’re talking about extremely sick people who have done serious harm. These are usually patients for whom there are no good options. Someone who can’t be restored to competency after a year of hospitalization usually isn’t able to take care of their own housing and other needs. Life on the streets is bitter and hard and often makes psychotic or schizoaffective symptoms worse. Medications for problems this bad often have side effects so miserable patients stop taking them. Some prefer the brutality of living rough. It’s clear there is a problem. The legislature has a duty to work on fixing it—within the limits of the constitution. The balance of protecting public safety, personal rights, and victims’ rights is difficult to find. I’d welcome your thoughts on the best path forward. I questioned one of the governor's appointees to the University Board of Regents this week in the Education Committee. All my best, Did someone forward you this newsletter? Did you fall into it through the series of tubes? Want more? SUBSCRIBE Events & Happenings Around District B Juneau Coast Guard Band Tour The US Coast Guard Band will be performing at Thunder Mountain High School April 22! It’s free, but you need to register! Juneau Totem Pole Trail Ceremony On April 22, come celebrate the completion of 12 totem poles for Kootéeya Deiyí! Be sure to watch the Grand Entrance at 11am! Juneau Little Women UAA Theater & Dance has a fresh take on the classic coming of age story! Show runs April 7 to April 23! Juneau Maritime Festival Come celebrate all things maritime at the Peratrovich Plaza downtown at 11am on May 6! Skagway Spring Festival Four days of cabin fever relief! Join the family friendly festivities April 20-23. Skagway Art Show See artist’s pieces at the annual Spring Show of Winter Work! Artists can drop off their work at Thursday, April 18. The show will be held on April 20 - 23 at the AB Hall! Skagway Late Night Library Friday nights at 6pm, come to the library for a different activity each week! Crafts, games, and more for ages 10-18! Skagway Story Time Remember story time with Ms. Anna! It's perfect for kids up to age 3—a fun romp with songs, books, and more. Each Wednesday at the library, 10:30am. Juneau Travel Fair Stop by the JAHC from 10am to 2pm April 22 to attend this annual event! Connect with the tourism industry and see what is in store for you and yours! Juneau Open Mic & Art Night Mountainside Open Mic & Art Night is back! All ages are welcome to enjoy this musical and artistic experience on April 19th! Haines Trivia Night Drop by for trivia at the library. Bring a team, or form one there. It's April 13 at 6:30pm. There are prizes, and it's free! Haines River Talk Seven speakers, seven stories, (seven minutes each), and seven dollars at 7 o’clock. Drop by the Chilkat Center on April 21 for stories and music! Haines Spring Fling Enjoy BBQ, music, carnival games, and more on the Fairgrounds! Join the fun on April 29 at 2pm. Haines Story Time Stories and songs for children and the young-at-heart! Every Monday and Friday in the library at 11:00 am. Haines Portable Southeast Art by Southeast Alaskans, born of the need to connect. This curated traveling art exhibition runs April 7-27. Gustavus Movie Night “Inception” Enjoy this reality-warping action film for free! Be at the Community Center on April 15 at 7pm! Is there an event in our district I should know about? Please call or email! Snail Mail? Alaska State Capitol Room 514 Juneau, AK 99801 Call: 800 550 4947 907 465 4947 Email Me! ‌ ‌ ‌ Contact My Staff, the people who power the work: Aurora Hauke 907 465 5051 [email protected] Caleb Yabes 907 465 4947 [email protected] Ella Adkison 907 465 6419 [email protected] Cathy Schlingheyde 907 465 6827 [email protected] Senator Jesse Kiehl | Alaska State Capitol, Rm. 419, 4th Avenue & Main Street, Juneau, AK 99801 Unsubscribe [email protected] Constant Contact Data Notice Sent by [email protected]
Screenshot of the email generated on import

Message Analysis