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The bill would require the completion of a study before the issue came before voters.

County consolidation central to proposed legislation

PIERRE, S.D.  — It’s been 41 years since two South Dakota counties combined. And for longer than that, there are lawmakers and academics have thought more counties should merge.
This week, the House Local Government Committee passed SB199 on a 13 to 0 vote to facilitate county consolidations. The bill clarifies the consolidation process and allows county commissions and citizens to initiate the process.
However, according to supporters, the most important part of the bill is that it would require a study of how the consolidation would work in terms of debts, the location of the courthouse, and other logistical issues. Voters would then examine the study to see the advantages and disadvantages. A majority of voters in both counties would need to vote to consolidate.
Republican Rep. Greg Jamison from Sioux Falls said, “In my district – Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties – there are some unique challenges with both counties occupying the city of Sioux Falls.  I have struggled, talking with those commissioners about how to combine our two counties and to consolidate and to save taxpayer’s money.”
Adding to the discussion was Republican Rep. Karla Lems from Canton. “We have the northern part of Lincoln County that is Sioux Falls.  And three of our commissioners are from Sioux Falls. Yet the ag area is huge on the south end of Lincoln County.  It’s just a very unique animal.”
She said SB199 would give a pathway forward to study consolidation.
The last county to consolidate was Washabaugh in western South Dakota in 1983. It was an unorganized county, which then merged with Jackson County.
The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration. SB199 has already passed the Senate.

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