JUNEAU — A hearing on a new bill that would make it a crime to broadcast 911 emergency calls started as expected Wednesday — with a clash between the First Amendment and a victim's right of privacy.
But the hearing took an unexpected twist when it became clear that Alaska State Troopers routinely ignore the state's public records law, at least as the law is interpreted by the drafter of the measure and the aide to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna.
Victims' rights bills are always popular in an election year, and this one, House Bill 415, was introduced last week, a month before the end of the Legislative session. Its first hearing Wednesday was in the House Labor and Commerce Committee, which Olson chairs. By the close of the day, Olson agreed the bill needed a lot more work and decided to hold onto it in his committee for revisions and at least one more hearing.
Olson's bill was presented to the committee by his aide, Jennifer Senette, who said a new law was necessary to prevent the anguished voice of a victim of a crime, animal attack or accident from winding up on the evening news or heard millions of times on the Internet.
"The private, excruciating moments in the lives of individuals who call 911, they're splashed all over the airwaves for the public to hear, and that's not necessarily because there's any significant public value -- it's kind of because it brings in the ratings," Senette said. "People should be able to call 911 with the expectation that these calls will not be broadcast for everyone else to hear."
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