U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan stopped by the Mat-Su Frontiersman office on Friday to discuss legislation he is introducing and issues he is passionate about that will have effects on Alaska.
The Frontiersman is a sister newspaper of the Anchorage Press and The Eagle.
A decade ago, Sullivan launched the Choose Respect campaign with former Governor Sean Parnell to bring awareness and attempt to curtail sexual assault and domestic violence. Realizing that though Alaska suffers some of the highest rates of sexual assault and domestic violence, the problem is nationwide, Sullivan is introducing a series of legislation at the national level called the Choose Respect Bill. Sullivan wants to take the ideas behind choose respect, to provide legal resources and services for victims, increase penalties and distribution of an ad campaign that, “Alaska men choose respect,” nationwide. Sullivan said that estimates show that nearly half of all Domestic Violence Protective Orders are never served because the assailant avoids being served with the DVPO. Sullivan said that he is exploring expanding the opportunities to serve a DVPO through text or email. A big idea that Sullivan is excited about and has bipartisan support is to offer legal counsel to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. He plans to introduce the bill next week with Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
“The victim gets nothing in terms of legal representation and yet the studies have shown very convincingly that the best way to get a victim or a survivor out of the cycle of violence that they often find themselves in is to get them a lawyer,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan said that one of his main priorities is to reform the judiciary branch of the Federal Government. Sullivan is proud that in the last two years, 125 Federal Judges, two Supreme Court Justices, 80 District Court Judges and 41 Circuit Court of Appeals judges have been confirmed. Sullivan formerly served as the Attorney General for Alaska and as a law clerk many years ago for the 9th circuit in Fairbanks and the Alaska Supreme Court in Anchorage before going in to private practice. Sullivan is excited about the hundreds of new judges and said that he believes many are focused on fidelity to written statute, not acting as results oriented policy-makers. Sullivan’s routine when interviewing a new judge is to review the 9-0 Sturgeon V. Frost Supreme Court case that was decided in 2018.
“We’re remaking the federal judiciary in a way that I think is what most of Alaskans want and its going to be a generational change and we’re going to continue,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan introduced Senate Bill 722 to split the 9th Circuit Court, which he feels is long overdue to be split up. Sullivan’s bill, which he feels addresses the issue of access to justice, began with the judicial conference report that detailed the need for more judges.
“The 9th circuit is broken. It’s too big,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan has a separate bill that spurs from an evidence issue that came to his attention from the judge that presided over the Ted Stevens case. Sullivan referred to the 1963 Brady V. Maryland decision. Sullivan’s bill would require prosecutors to hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense, which has been mandated in the Brady V. Maryland decision but worked around by prosecutors. Sullivan has provided a key resource for Alaskan politicians seeking guidance in how to lower the cost of medicaid in Alaska. Sullivan said that cost estimations prior to medicaid expansion have been exceeded, and he has been working on sustainability issues on the national and state level. Regardless of the party of the governor in office, Sullivan feels it is his role to provide access to allies in Washington D.C. for the administration from Alaska. Sullivan worked passionately during the Obamacare debates to change the match rate for Alaskan Medicaid users. Sullivan says he is working on a provision to change the formula that would allow Alaska and Hawaii to take into account mandated higher costs of living.
“Nationally, Medicaid has to be put on a sustainable budget which it’s not,” Sullivan said.