House rejects Senate changes to paintball resolution

Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The House on Tuesday voted against Senate changes to a resolution condemning recent paintball attacks on Alaska Natives in Anchorage.

The measure, which had first passed the House in March, was modified in the Senate last week to condemn only ''unlawful'' discrimination. Sen. Loren Leman, R-Anchorage, was among those who said the change was needed because some forms of discrimination are legal. Leman cited as examples of legal discrimination age restrictions for voting and driving, as well as income restrictions on those receiving state aid.

That change didn't sit well with House members, who said the Senate version of the resolution was too timid and amounted to condemning behavior that's already illegal.

''There comes a point when we don't just go along to get along with the other body,'' said Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage. ''Legal racism existed in this country within recent memory. We had voting rights issues. We had internment issues. We had Jim Crow laws. Those were all legal. It doesn't make them right.''

The measure is in response to an incident earlier this year in which three young white men videotaped themselves shooting paintballs at Alaska Natives in downtown Anchorage. The resolution condemns the act and calls for an investigation by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Majority leader Jeannette James, R-North Pole, was the only House member to express support for the Senate changes.

''There is lots of discrimination that we do that is not unlawful,'' James said. ''We want to be sure we're on solid ground with what we're saying.''

The Senate version of the resolution was voted down 28-6. It now goes to a conference committee, which will try to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the resolution.

''I imagine we can work out something,'' Leman said after the vote. He suggested a narrower version of the resolution, one that limits itself to condemning the paintball incident, might be more acceptable to the Senate.

''I would say that a resolution that speaks more to that would be more acceptable,'' Leman said.

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