Opinion: South Dakota Editorial RoundupIncrease in 911 services surcharge is warranted Twenty years is a long time to offer growing 911 services without any revenue increases. We hope a study requested by the South Dakota 911 Coordination Board will produce good suggestions of how to use the service’s revenue streams most efficiently.
Increase in 911 services surcharge is warranted
Twenty years is a long time to offer growing 911 services without any revenue increases.
We hope a study requested by the South Dakota 911 Coordination Board will produce good suggestions of how to use the service’s revenue streams most efficiently.
Currently, 911 services throughout the state are paid for through local government funding and a 75-cent monthly surcharge on telephone lines. But in addition to any efficiencies that the study might identify, it’s time that the Legislature also considers a modest raise in the surcharge, which hasn’t even been adjusted for inflation.
Though raising taxes isn’t a popular idea, there are times when hikes are warranted.
Ensuring that 911 services are available 24 hours a day is a priority that meets that criteria. And satisfying that obligation is especially critical for areas of the state that are growing.
To help its cause, the board will need to demonstrate that South Dakota’s various 911 centers indeed are operating as efficiently as possible. But given that there has been no increase in the telephone surcharge for 20 years, a modest increase could be justified, too.
The Legislature should give the board’s request serious consideration and avoid the temptation of rejecting it automatically as just another tax increase.
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Sentence change disturbing
Outgoing Gov. Mike Rounds’ decision to reduce the life sentence of a convicted killer is not only highly disturbing, the decision was made in an inexcusably lopsided way.
Rounds recently commuted the sentence of Joaquin Jack Ramos, who was serving a life sentence for manslaughter after shooting his fiancée, Debbie Martines, during a fit of drunken rage.
Rounds didn’t speak to the judge who presided over the case. His decision was contrary to at least three legal appeals that upheld the conviction.
Worst of all, Rounds didn’t consult members of the victims’ family before commuting the sentence.
“He weighs these things very heavily,” said Rounds spokesman Joe Kafka. “He thinks about them long and hard, and he finally made the decision to commute the sentence.”
Given the lack of input from the judge or the family, that’s hard to believe. To make matters worse, no one in state government bothered to officially notify the family about the sentence reduction.
Corrections officials said letters sent to the family were returned as undeliverable, and that it was their responsibility to maintain current information.
A victims’ assistance advocate had no trouble finding them, however. When the family called the governor’s office in an effort to voice their objections, they were told a decision hadn’t been made, even though Rounds had already signed the commutation papers a day earlier.
In July 2008, the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended commuting Ramos’ sentence for shooting Martines in 1994 in the couple’s Rapid Valley home.
The gun apparently discharged unintentionally as Ramos was hitting Martines, resulting in a plea deal that reduced the original murder charge to manslaughter.
Rounds, who hasn’t publicly explained his decision, wrote to Ramos in 2006, saying he was impressed with Ramos’ work speaking to youths about the mistakes he had made in life. ... Rounds’ decision makes Ramos eligible for parole in 2013. ...
The judge on the case, Seventh Circuit Judge Jeff Davis, was surprised by Rounds’ decision.
“I had absolutely no input in this decision and it would not have been my recommendation.”
He sentenced Ramos to life in prison after concluding he had a history of abusive and controlling relationships with women, making rehabilitation a remote prospect.
Martines’ family is devastated, by Rounds’ action, and understandably so.
“We got justice and it was just ripped away,” said Martines’ sister, Donna Cassidy.
Rapid City Journal