PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Better understanding the current conditions and future needs of South Dakota’s local jails, juvenile justice and state prisons will consume much of lawmakers’ time during the coming months.
The Legislature’s Executive Board on Monday chose those topics, along with property taxes, for interim studies. The vote was 9-6.
SB 144 mandated the prison-funding task force. Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack of Union Center and House Republican leader Kent Peterson of Salem sponsored the bill. It comes in the wake of a statewide study commissioned by Governor Kristi Noem.
The top interim topic as ranked by lawmakers was “examining local jails and opportunities for collaboration with state correctional plans.” It came from SCR 608 sponsored by Senator Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, and Representative Carl Perry, R-Aberdeen.
During the 2022 session, there were appropriations requests from various lawmakers to help fund construction of regional jail facilities in Deadwood, Brown County and Lincoln County, as well as from the governor for various state prison facilities.
The board chose to keep the studies of jails and prisons somewhat separate.
“The penitentiary system needs a lot of attention right now,” Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert of Mission said. He serves on the state Corrections Commission. Local jails need attention, too, Heinert acknowledged, but they “are two completely different things. I think if we combine them we won’t get a good product for either.”
Representative Ernie Otten, R-Tea, succeeded in adding property taxes to the list of interim topics Monday, amid some unusually large increases in assessed values in many counties. “I think that would be wise,” Otten said. He was supported by Representative Trish Ladner, R-Hot Springs. “This is a very important topic in my district,” Ladner said.
But Senator Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, didn’t want to add another topic. Schoenbeck said replacing the property tax with another tax requires a two-thirds vote under the South Dakota Constitution. He predicted it will be “a b—- session” and “a complete waste of the Legislature’s time.”
Senator Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, said a property-tax study would be “instructive” but doesn’t foresee any meaningful legislation coming from it.
The board agreed with Otten’s suggestion to combine two topics about property taxes: The property tax structure and how to reduce the overall property tax burden; and property tax assessment guidelines and alternative taxation methods used by other states.
Legislative Research Council director Reed Holwegner said the next step from his office will be to poll the 105 lawmakers about which of the interim studies they want to serve on and report back to the board, which next meets April 25.