Friday, May 8, 2015
Committee gives green light to plan that eases burden on county taxpayers
Augusta – Members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved a new plan to turn over control of the county jails back to the counties. The plan comes after extensive discussions and debate. The amendment to LD 186 was approved Friday in a 6-4 vote (two Republicans have yet to vote) after a true bipartisan collaboration.
Some of the highlights of the bill passed out of committee:
1. Repeals the Board of Corrections.
2. Returns the responsibility for the county jails to the counties and regional jails to the participating counties.
3. Provides funding to the counties for the jails in the amount of $14,688,000 annually from the Community Corrections Fund.
4. Maintains the cap on county taxes for correctional services at $62,172,371 through FY 2016-2017. In later years the counties would be able to increase the tax cap by no more than the county’s LD 1 growth rate and cannot exceed 3% in a given fiscal year.
5. Establishes in statute a maximum prisoner boarding rate to be paid to by the sending jail facility to the receiving facility as negotiated between them. The maximum rate is set in statute at $108 per day.
6. Provides a level of accountability by mandating jails to use best practices, policies and standards as laid out in the Flanagan Commission Report and report back to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on the implementation of the best practices, policies and standards.
“I’m pleased that we were finally able to take a big step toward returning control the jails to the counties,” said Rep. Karen Gerrish (R) of Lebanon, a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. “From the beginning, we heard from an overwhelming number of county sheriffs and county commissioners who said this was the outcome they wanted. There were a significant number of challenges for our committee during this process. Our major hurdle during these discussions was trying to accomplish this outcome without drastically raising property taxes. By placing the cap on tax increases for correctional services I think we accomplished that goal. I want to thank all my fellow committee members, especially Rep. Ricky Long, Rep. Justin Chenette and Rep. Cathy Nadeau who were instrumental in this process.”
The bill will head to the House floor for a vote.