Commissioners attend rally to reform unfunded mandates

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Sibley County Commissioners Leo Bauer and Charlie Woehler were among the state’s county commissioners and county sheriffs, seeking reforms in the state’s short-term offender program. A rally, spearheaded by the Association of Minnesota Counties, was held at the south steps of the State Capitol Thursday morning.

The short-term offender program was created in 2003, when state lawmakers transferred the cost and responsibility of housing state felons with six months or less remaining on their sentence from state prison to local jails. The estimated state reimbursement rate for 2009 is $9/day, when it costs an estimated $55 – $75/day for each prisoner in Sibley County, according to Sheriff Bruce Ponath.

Ponath said that when the program first was created, Sibley County housed some short-term state felons. However, in the past few years, Sibley County has not. Mostly larger counties in the state have had to house them, Ponath explained.

Bauer and Woehler attended the rally in support of other counties who have been affected by the state legislation. County officials need to work with the state legislators about this unfunded mandate, he said. Bauer believes that the state should pay the actual cost of housing the prisons.

Bauer said he and Woehler attended the rally because they were already in the Twin Cities area, attending a policy committee meeting for the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC).

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