PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A group of South Dakota lawmakers like the idea of providing state loans and grants to counties for regional jails but isn’t sure about allowing a county-jail sales tax.
The Legislature’s Study Committee on Regional Jails and State Correctional Plans met for a fourth time Tuesday.
The panel worked down a list of possible findings for a report that the Legislature’s Executive Board wants by early November.
The report will serve as a basis for possible action in the 2023 legislative session.
Senator Jim Stalzer chairs the committee. The Sioux Falls Republican said Legislative Research Council staff will prepare a draft version of the report and lawmakers will gather by teleconference at some point in October to give final approval of it.
Senator Bryan Breitling, a Miller Republican who’s on the committee, said the Legislature put $14 million this year into a new fund for assisting counties with regional jails. He said lawmakers planned to add $72 million in 2023.
Lawmakers Tuesday suggested a variety of possible factors for how those grants and loans should be chosen, but they agreed that the Legislature shouldn’t be involved in deciding whether a county gets one.
Representative Nancy York, a Watertown Republican, has tried for three years to build support for allowing counties to ask voters for approval to charge a limited-use sales tax to pay for a new or expanded jail. The committee split Tuesday on whether to endorse the idea.
Representative Carl Perry, an Aberdeen Republican, said he is willing to consider “a new structure” for county revenue at some level. “I’m open to change because our counties need that change,” he said.
Counties have property taxes as their main source of revenue. The Janklow administration’s emphasis on limiting property-tax growth in the mid-1990s confined counties’ property-tax increases to the lesser of 3% or the rate of inflation, plus whatever new growth each county had. Stalzer said he would recommend to the Legislature’s leadership that there be a re-examination.
The report will call for lawmakers to consider reimbursing counties for probation violators kept in county jails, similar to state payments for parole violators, and for whether the $70 rate should be increased.
The report also will encourage counties to consider entering compacts for regional jails. Legislative staff were assigned to look at state laws for regional railroad authorities and see whether that concept could be used for regional jails. The report however won’t recommend any mandate on aligning counties into regions.
The committee agreed on calling for judges and magistrates to use more video conferences as a way to reduce counties’ transportation costs and on calling for more public education about the regional-jails issue overall.
The committee split on whether to recommend repealing what’s known as presumptive probation. Many county and state prosecutors dislike it because a judge can decide whether or not to send to prison a person guilty of the two lowest classes of felony crimes. Many of those criminals then serve time in county jails. Stalzer said the committee would let counties take the lead on that issue.