U.S. House scheduled to vote on VAWA renewal

Apr 3, 2019

The U.S. House is expected to vote this week to renew the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which expired in February.

The bill authorizes multiple programs aimed at reducing domestic abuse and other forms of violence.

It also includes a boost for those who want Alaska tribes to have more power to establish law and order in rural villages. It would create a pilot program to allow up to five Alaska tribes legal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes like domestic violence and stalking.

Land-based jurisdiction, or Indian Country, would apply to certain property owned by village corporations and villages.

The idea that Indian Country jurisdiction might apply in Alaska has been bitterly contested, with some of the strongest opposition coming from the state's Republicans. But crime rates are high in Alaska Native villages, and an influential 2013 report said part of the problem is that Alaska tribes don't exercise jurisdiction over territory the way Lower 48 tribes do, or have the power to prosecute non-Natives for violence in villages.

Alaska Congressman Don Young has drafted an amendment to expand the Alaska pilot program in the VAWA bill. In Young's version, a tribe could have criminal jurisdiction in a village where the population is at least 75 percent Alaska Native.

The House is likely to vote Thursday on VAWA.