Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Senate passes legislation to improve Alaska village law enforcement

FAIRBANKS — The Senate has passed legislation targeted at improving law enforcement on Indian reservations and in rural Alaska villages.

The Tribal Law and Order Act, which passed the Senate through unanimous consent, would allow the state of Alaska, tribes and tribal organizations that employ village public safety officers to fund the positions through federal grants or congressional earmarks, thanks to amendments introduced by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

“Roughly 90 communities in rural Alaska do not have law enforcement,” Murkowski said in a statement. “I regard it as a fundamental right that Native people should feel safe in their villages. It is my hope that this bill will make rural communities safer."

The Murkowski amendments would allow VPSOs to receive training at the Indian Police Academy in New Mexico.

If the bill passes the House and is signed into law by the president, the Government Accountability Office would conduct an evaluation of Native village’s ability to collect forensic evidence to see how the process could be improved.

“In order for Congress to provide adequate resources, we must have documentation,” Murkowski said.

Begich pleased with blocking of drilling moratorium

Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, was among those who welcomed a federal judge’s decision last week that the Obama administration went too far in putting a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling projects, calling the ban “overreaching.”

“It should serve as a shot across the bow to the administration and Congress that American workers must continue to develop America’s energy resources within our borders,” Begich said in a statement.

The senator said he hopes “responsible exploratory drilling” that Shell is planning to do off the North Slope will be able to go forward.

“As much as a tragedy as BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster is, we can’t let emotion overrule sound energy policy,” Begich said. “Our country’s energy policy must include increased domestic oil and gas development as we transition to cleaner energy sources.”

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