WASILLA — House Bill 214 (HB214), a proposed law to name a portion of the Alaska Safe Children's Act as “Bree’s Law” is currently stuck in committee. With 13 out of 20 senators in favor, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair John Coghill (R-North Pole) is holding the bill. Butch Moore and his wife, Cindy, claimed that naming the teen dating violence and abuse policy, training, awareness, and prevention in public school section will help the information resonate with children while Coghill claimed the law was already working without it.
“The safe children’s act is in law and it is working. The school counselors are using it discreetly and wisely. Butch Moore has spoken to schools and I don’t disparage that, but this leaves the professionals in charge of the issue rather than Butch Moore,” Coghill said.
The Alaska Safe Children's Act went into effect in June of last year. The state is mandating that all public schools add policies that provide education for staff and students on two main sections. The first covers the awareness and prevention of sexual abuse for students from kindergarten to 12th grade and the second covers dating violence awareness and prevention for students from seventh to twelfth grade. The first has been referred as “Erin’s Law” and the latter as “Bree’s Law.”
“There is no downside to passing HB 214. There is no fiscal note. There is no funding needed. There is no money to talk about. There are only lives to be saved,” Moore wrote in his letter to the Frontiersman.
The Moores want to make the name Bree’s Law into an official law in the legislature. It’s been almost 4 years since Breanna “Bree” Moore was murdered by her boyfriend, Joshua Almeda. Almeda was convicted for Bree’s murder and Butch Moore said that he wants to continue his efforts, telling Bree’s story in order to connect with children, teens, parents, and teachers.
“To be fair, the Moores were a part of that discussion because of their daughter, which is a tragic, tragic story. I’m brokenhearted for them,” Coghill said.
Moore compared “Bree’s Law” to the “Amber Alert” system that puts out a mass alert when a child is missing. He said that people remember what an “Amber Alert” is because of the child who went missing, the story behind the alert. He said that having a personal story with a name attached to lessons will resonate more with the students.
“It’s not because we want to memorialize her. We can’t save her,” Moore said in an interview.
Moore felt like Coghill went back on his initial support while Coghill felt like Moore was “bullying” the legislature to get his way.
“This bill is now being stopped by one senator who wants to spoil everyone’s fun, rain on the parade and yet, once again, shine the light on the fact that regardless if everyone in the state agrees on one thing, he will certainly be the one to stop it,” Moore wrote in his letter.
Coghill said that the title of Moore’s letter that later ran in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner [“Senator blocking Alaska Safe Children’s Act must desist”] was misleading and spreads misinformation to his advantage.
“The law is already in place, the name is not,” Coghill said.
Coghill’s authority in the Senate gives him the ability to hold the bill, so it remains frozen for now. He said that in spite of his “lively” history with Moore, spanning several years, and his sympathy for “such a tragedy,” he cannot excuse Moore’s behavior and allow a bill to pass just to appease him, which ultimately, he fears will shift the focus away from the overall goal of the enacted law.
“I hold no man in contempt, I never do, especially a man who is hurting like Butch. I’ve found him to be argumentative. He and I’ve had some pretty lively conversations, to the point where I finally had to tell him, ‘don’t call me anymore,’” Coghill said. “When you can’t have a conversation that doesn’t end up with two people not listening to each other, you just have to quit the conversation.”
Coghill stated that Moore has “bullied most of the legislature into agreeing to sign on to that bill” and if passed, he is concerned will turn Bree’s Law into Butch’s tool to step over school’s staff. He’s holding HB 214 in committee and said there are some who want him to discharge it. He noted that most of the senators who have approached him said that they were mostly trying to “get Butch off their back, and that’s no way to get a bill passed.”
“I’ve even had some of the school people tell me, ‘look, he is enlisting children to disclose things without professional help available. He gives that information and he does nothing with it, so the kids get some sort of false expectation when he’s in the school. I don’t want to add any more authority to that for him."
Coghill admitted it was just a name to a law but he couldn’t abide by Moore’s methodology, something he “doesn’t want to see happen in schools.”
“This is just a name on the law but it would create circumstance that I find distasteful. I think if we put that into law, we would then encourage what I consider poor behavior. The way he has been doing it is so pushy, that I just don’t want to give him what is called franchise or a license to go into school and franchise his daughter’s name on a program that is much broader than an issue he continually talks about, so that’s the primary reason for just saying no,” Coghill said.
Coghill stated that Moore has intentions to take Bree’s Law across the nation which, to him, indicates Moore wanting to “franchise.”
Moore said that he was spending money, not making it and Coghill said he is very sympathetic to both Butch and Cindy.
“In the big scheme of things, if we don’t get the budget under control, this is small potatoes in comparison,” Coghill said. “It just happens to be a very emotional issue brought by a guy who is very persistent with a very tragic story.”
Governor Bill Walker has deemed Feb. 13 as Wear Orange Day — an annual event where participants are encouraged to wear orange to promote National Teen Dating Violence and Awareness Month.
Sponsors of HB 214 include:
Repsresnetatives Drummond, Millett, Claman, Tarr, Grenn, Kito, Neuman, Gara, LeDoux, Eastman, Tilton, Rauscher, Seaton, Kawasaki, Reinbold, Josephson, Johnson, Spohnholz, Sullivan-Leonard, Birch, Parish, Wool, Kopp, Johnston, Pruitt, Tuck, Guttenberg, Saddler; and Senators Costello, Begich, Hughes, Gardner, Egan, Wielechowski, Wilson, Meyer, Micciche, Stevens, Bishop, von Imhof, Shower, Olson