Murkowski reintroduces bill to prevent violence against Indigenous women and girls

Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at a press availability following her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks with reporters at a press availability following her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

On Monday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and a Democratic colleague, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, reintroduced a bill aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Named for a North Dakota woman killed in 2017, Savanna’s Act would improve data collection on missing and murdered Native women.

Murkowski said records are so limited, authorities don’t even understand the scope of the problem.

“And this is where it gets so frustrating,” she said. “We don’t even know what we don’t know with this. We don’t know if our statistics are right. We know that they’re bad, but we don’t know how bad.”

The bill would also increase tribal access to federal crime databases and require federal agencies to consult with tribes on reporting guidelines and other measures to protect Indigenous women and girls.

This is the second go-around for Savanna’s Act, originally introduced in October 2017 by former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and co-sponsored by Murkowski.

In December 2018, the bill passed the Senate unanimously. But it was blocked in the House by a single lawmaker: Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. As a result, the bill expired at the end of the year.

This time around, Murkowski is expecting a smoother road:

“To my knowledge, there is nobody that has a dug-in opposition. But you never can tell. You don’t want to assume anything,” she said.

Murkowski said she’s prepared to do the work to see the bill become law.

Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin contributed to this report.

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