Department of Corrections Noncompliance Letters/HB1263

As most of you know the D.O.C. over the past year has been passing out noncompliance letters to a large number of counties.  Although, I do not have an exact count, the distribution above with three or four not listed have either a letter in hand or some type of inevitable jail situation (over 25 counties).  These letters are given under Indiana Code 11-12-4-2 and gives each county 180 days (“6 Months”) to show a “good faith effort” to come into compliance with the problems noted in the letter (mostly overcrowding).  It would further seem logical that “good faith effort” will be determined by the D.O.C.   Honestly, I think the DOC was initially hoping the letters would get jails having standards issues, moving towards solving these issues.   But this all takes money and little if any consideration was given to where the money could come from.

Because of the limited amount of differential income tax available (LOT) to counties on the 2.5% provided, and given that all counties have to share this income with the other certified shares, most are opting to try and get the legislature to give them a “Special Purpose Tax”.  This tax is not shared and therefore the local taxpayer pays much less tax than he otherwise would have to give the sharing aspect of the income tax.  Most counties by the way get about 40-45% of the income tax otherwise.  In talking with a number of legislators, I am not sure they understand that this is enabling legislation and to activate the tax takes the passage of a county ordinance.  There is no political issue for them.

With the legislature over on March 14th, there are only four counties listed in HB 1263 that are either asking for enabling legislation for a Special Purpose Tax or a modification to one they already have.  Jennings is asking for 0.65% (largest asked for to date) and Randolph, Tipton and Union are asking for a change in language that could include either a jail, operations of a jail or a courthouse renovation.  Fulton County asked for 0.25% but never made it out of committee.  Given the counties above no one is sure why that happened.

I have been told that there will be no more noncompliance letters coming out of the D.O.C.  I was also told that a number of counties are calling the governor complaining about the letters and their financial implications to the counties.  This of course puts the D.O.C in the middle, which no one likes.  I stressed to the D.O.C that it would behoove them to solicit support in November with the legislature for passage of the Special Purpose Taxes.  And remind them that they do not have any political skin in the game.  There could be as many as a dozen or more counties submitting their requests.

As a side note to H.B. 1263:  Beside the counties listed above it also mentions the need of feasibility studies (never in 40 years have I known a county not to do one), approval of the fiscal bodies and sheriffs when a regional jail is considered (really-?) and how to deal with per diem income on housing prisoners.