PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A proposal letting a political subdivision such as a county or municipal government form a regional jail authority with another political subdivision is one step from final approval in the South Dakota Legislature.
The House State Affairs Committee gave its endorsement on Monday to SB-74 on a 12-1 vote. The House of Representatives could debate it as early as Tuesday afternoon.
The bill also would let the local governments levy a tax to pay for costs of building or running the facility. The Senate gave its approval 27-8.
Republican Sen. Jim Stalzer, the prime sponsor, said the legislation would allow creation of a board and let the sheriff of the host county be in charge. “Sheriffs didn’t want some commissioner from a county a hundred miles away telling them how to run the jail,” Stalzer said.
Republican Sen. Helene Duhamel, who works for the Pennington County sheriff’s office, said incarceration costs can bankrupt a county. “The overarching theme is flexibility,” she said. “No one wants a mortgage on a jail.”
Staci Ackerman, executive director for the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association, said there are 23 jails among the 66 counties. Eric Erickson, representing the South Dakota counties, said that in Corson County a sheriff’s deputy can spend 10 hours arresting a drunk driver, taking the accused person to the Meade County jail and driving back.
The concept is based on the regional rail authorities used in South Dakota. Toby Morris of Collier Securities described the legislation as “a very technical bill” that provides stronger assurance to bondholders by dedicating a revenue stream.
State Department of Revenue lawyer Kirsten Jasper was the only opponent. “It creates a new layer of government for jail authorities,” she said.
Republican Rep. James Wangsness called for the committee’s endorsement. “This is a good first step so we can help these counties deal with these problems,” he said.
House Democrat leader Oren Lesmeister agreed, saying Corson County deputies sometimes run 24 hours straight on duty.
Republican Rep. Becky Drury said she heard counties “pleading” for abilities to build new jails the past two years while she was on the House tax panel. Having deputies traveling long distances with prisoners takes them off their patrol and investigation duties, she said: “It puts the rest of the population at risk.”