Dist. 8 lawmakers sponsor criminal justice reform bill
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
Even a few days into the 2013 session, the rosters of bills that lawmakers want the South Dakota Legislature to consider already contain dozens of proposals offered by House and Senate members and other state officials.|
Each of the bills has sponsors, and the highly-publicized criminal justice reform measure, titled SB70, has 30 state senators and 40 state representatives on its sponsor's list. The SB70 sponsor list includes all three District 8 lawmakers: Sen. Russell Olson of Madison, Rep. Leslie Heinemann of Flandreau, and Rep. Scott Parsley of Madison.
Republican Olson, the Senate Majority Leader, described SB70 as a nonpartisan, joint effort at reform. Gov. Dennis Daugaard encouraged the state legislators to pass the legislation during Tuesday's State of the State address, and Chief Justice David Gilbertson of the South Dakota Supreme Court -- along with lawmakers and the governor -- helped introduce the 33-page bill on the same day.
Included among SB70's proposals is the authority to place more drug and alcohol offenders into intensive treatment programs instead of sending them to prison. Another section gives Gilbertson the authority to establish a drug court system in any court that deals with criminal cases and to create an advisory council to address the operational and resource needs of drug courts (see story on page 3).
Drug courts are special courts that have jurisdiction over drug offenders, and they use treatment-based alternatives to incarceration in prisons and other detention centers.
Part of SB70 also gives the courts the option to consult with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or other persons or agencies for treatment options if the defendant is currently serving or is a veteran in the U.S. military.
In addition to SB70, Olson has so far helped to sponsor three other bills that were given their first reading and sent to Senate committees.
SB3 would instruct any state department or agency that issues a license or certificate to graduates from state universities to report how many persons had successfully completed the requirements to obtain their license or certification.
SB4 would require the state Labor Department to determine how successful graduates from state universities and technical institutes are in obtaining jobs.
SB5 would create a Council on Higher Education Policy Goals, Performance and Accountability that would monitor progress toward postsecondary education goals, such as increasing the number of graduates from universities and technical schools.
The council would monitor any progress with efforts to increase the number of college degrees earned by at-risk students and increase completed credit hours. It would also monitor at all public universities and technical schools the retention of first-year students to continue a second year of postsecondary education.
For the 2013 session, the prefiling of legislative bills started on Dec. 10.
The legislators have 38 working days to perform their duties with March 7-8 reserved for concurrances and conference committee work. After a two-week recess, March 25, the last day of the session, is reserved for the Legislature's consideration of the governor's vetos.