Alaska’s House Decides To Raise The State’s Age Of Consent With A Handwritten Amendment


In the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 22, 2024, Rep. Andrew Gray (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Kevin McCabe (R-Big Lake) talk about a measure that would raise the state’s age of consent to 18. Both men use their hands to make gestures. (Alaska Beacon photo by James Brooks)

The Alaska House of Representatives moved out of the blue on Friday to raise the age of sexual consent in the state from 16 to 18.

Rep. Andrew Gray’s (D-Anchorage) idea was highly debated but eventually passed 32–6 as an addition to House Bill 264. The bill is set to be voted on again on Monday.

“I’m shocked beyond words. Gray said, “I mean, I’m really, really happy.” “It will change things for the better in our state.”

As part of HB 264, state organizations would have to look for children who are being sexually abused. During the debate, Gray added an amendment that changes what it means for sexual abuse to happen to a minor.

Current state law says that if a person over 18 has sex with a person under 16, it is first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, which is a felony that can get you up to 99 years in jail.

Gray’s change would make it illegal for people over 18 to have sex with people younger than 18. There would be some exceptions, though.

One person over the age of 18 could marry a person under the age of 16 and have sex with them.

The addition, which was quickly written by hand to meet a deadline for submission, also doesn’t change other parts of the state’s criminal code that also have a 16-year-old limit.

“I could write that fast.” Gray said, “Everyone knows I was waiting for Legislative Legal, and they just couldn’t get (the amendment) done in time.” Legislative Legal is a neutral office that helps lawmakers write bills and amendments.

“I want the amendment to do what I talked about on the floor, which is to raise the age of consent,” Gray said. “I think that’s what everyone voted on.”

He said that he had already talked to state senators about the problems with the bill as it is now. He thinks that those problems will be fixed if the House passes the main bill and sends it to the Senate.

You might not get through. The bill could be sent back to committee so that more changes can be made, or its author, Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, could kill it.

Six people voted against Gray’s motion, which caused an hour of debate and discussion when it was first brought up on Friday morning. Vance was one of those six people.

Vance and others said the plan hadn’t been properly looked over.

“It’s not where it should be—a bill that’s only trying to protect our kids from being exploited,” she said.

She was also critical of the possible cost, which she thought would be $4 million based on a talk with Department of Public Safety officials.

In the discussion, Gray gave a sharp answer.

“What do I say? Who cares? “It doesn’t matter how much it costs to keep our 16- and 17-year-olds safe,” he said.

Austin McDaniel, who is in charge of press for the department, couldn’t confirm Vance’s number on Friday.

He said, “We’re sure there will be a fiscal impact; we just need to do that analysis, which hasn’t happened yet.”

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, told lawmakers not to vote for a change whose text doesn’t match what they wanted.

He said, “What we say here on the record and what is written on the paper might not be the same thing.”

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, said, “This issue is so important that it needs to go through the committee process.”

Even with those warnings, the House voting board lit up quickly in green when lawmakers voted on the amendment. Once it got to 21 votes, which is the minimum needed to pass, many lawmakers who had spoken against it changed their votes from “no” to “yes.”

All six “no” votes were cast by Republicans: Vance, Mike Cronk (R-Tok), Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage), Tom McKay (R-Anchorage), Mike Prax (R-North Pole), Dan Saddler (R-Eagle River), and Mike Cronk (R-Tok). Rep. Thomas Baker (R-Kotzebue) and Rep. Jennie Armstrong (D-Anchorage) were not allowed to be there and did not vote.

On Monday, the House will decide on House Bill 264 one last time.

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