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Some 2013 SD laws well-rooted after first year, others have not made much impact

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PIERRE, South Dakota — South Dakota's 2013 laws mark their one year anniversary Tuesday, and some, like the Public Safety Improvement Act, already are making an impact. Others, such as the policy to train and arm school staff, have stalled.

Here's a look at the status of some year-old laws.

PUBLIC SAFETY IMPROVEMENT ACT

Officials from all branches of government and both parties came together behind a sweeping 2013 policy that aims to reduce the state's prison population and save money. In 2012, several state officials — including those from the state Supreme Court, governor's office, Legislature and Corrections Department — reviewed South Dakota's criminal justice system and identified problems and ways to address them.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson said he's pleased with the progress a year in. He's been monitoring the expansion of the state's special courts.

"We are moving forward, trying to grow existing programs and set up new ones," Gilbertson said.

Drug and DUI courts allow people with nonviolent drug offences to opt for treatment and supervision rather than time in prison. Gilbertson said the program has also kept children with their parents, who might have otherwise been turned over to state social services at a cost of $10,000 a year.

The state's first veterans court will open next Monday in Watertown, to treat veterans whose addictions or psychiatric problems have led to criminal behavior.

Another aspect of the act that launched this year allows cooperative parolees to reduce their time on parole, with every day of good behavior resulting in a day off the parole term. And the state is embarking on a pilot program with Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribal officials to allow tribal members to return home while on parole.

BUILDING SOUTH DAKOTA

Another extensive bipartisan initiative took hold last year with the establishment of Building South Dakota, which supplies funding through a variety of channels to support economic development in the state.

Around half of the more than $7 million in grants and loans disbursed through the initiative have gone through the state's Housing Development Authority to help people of low and moderate income find housing and cover other needs, such as homelessness prevention, down payment assistance and rehabilitation of old properties in the state. Other funds have gone toward local infrastructure and economic development organizations.

State Democrats and Republicans differ on how they would like to see the initiative funded in the future. A $30 million windfall from unclaimed property dollars will support the program for three years. This session Republicans developed and passed into law a funding formula for Building South Dakota that prioritizes the state's rainy day fund, which Democrats hope to overhaul in the coming years.

SCHOOL SENTINELS

A divisive 2013 policy would arm willing school staff, but none of the public or private schools in the state has yet taken advantage of the opportunity.

In order to establish a school sentinel program, a local school board must authorize it. If the public raises opposition, the issue then goes to a local vote. Once approved, the district develops a plan that must be accepted by local law enforcement leaders.

State officials are ready to train school staff if the program is ever approved. But some school officials have said there's no need for the program which is still viewed as contentious.

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