PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Legislation that would let South Dakota county commissions charge up to $25 for their treasurers to process a motor-vehicle title sent by mail is one step closer to approval.

The Senate Local Government Committee voted 5-2 Monday for HB 1079. The House of Representatives has already approved it. The bill could be up debate by the full Senate as early as Tuesday afternoon.

Senator Jessica Castleberry, a Rapid City Republican, said several counties want the change. She said the Pennington County treasurer office has become so busy with mailed-in title applications that it doesn’t accept phone calls from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. so the staff can focus on walk-up customers.

The fee would be at the option of each county, as would the amount up to the maximum $25, but it wouldn’t apply to vehicle dealers or insurance providers licensed in South Dakota, according to Castleberry. South Dakota doesn’t require title applicants to show proof of insurance, and Pennington County doesn’t charge a wheel tax.

Castleberry said the goal in Pennington County is to hire two more people who would concentrate on processing mailed-in title applications.

The Pennington County treasurer, Janet Sayler, said mailbox services catering to RV users are charging $15 per vehicle for processing, and that’s led people to directly call her office and those of other counties’ treasurers. She said South Dakota’s 4 percent excise tax can be $4,000 less than in Minnesota for a $200,000 motor home.

Sayler said a lawyer challenged her office last year over an administrative fee her office was already charging. Having a state law would make clear the fee was legal, she said. 

Helen Paxton, the Sully County treasurer, also testified in support. She said taxpayers have to wait while her office handles phone calls and the fee would relieve some of that burden.

Roger Tellinghuisen, a lobbyist for the South Dakota County Officials Association, emphasized the legislation affects vehicle titles and doesn’t apply to annual license-plate renewals. He said title-transfer documents can be difficult for people to complete and that leads to incomplete forms requiring county treasurer staff to call the applicants.

He said Sayler’s office had more than 4,800 mail-in title applications during calendar year 2019.

No one testified as an opponent. 

Senator Gary Cammack, a Union Center Republican, asked for the committee to support the change. “This is a product of South Dakota being a tax-friendly state,” he said. “I believe it’s a good deal for the state of South Dakota.”

The Pennington County treasurer website on vehicle titling and registration can be seen here.