So we have bills to consolidate K-12 schools and close a university campus; now Representative Brian Dreyer (R-32/Rapid City) comes through with a bill to consolidate counties. As he promised in a quick interview on SDPB yesterday, Rep. Dreyer has filed House Joint Resolution 1002, which would place on our ballot a Constitutional amendment to do the following:
- Give the legislature total authority to set county boundaries.
- Eliminate the requirement that citizens of any county facing a boundary change approve said change by majority vote.
- Establish a County Consolidation Commission.
- Require said commission to produce a plan draws a new map so that "no county shall consist of fewer than twenty-five thousand population, as determined by the 2010 Federal Decennial Census, or five thousand square miles of surface area, whichever is less." [Um, 5,000 is always less than 25,000, isn't it? Rewrite!]
- Give the Legislature until July 1, 2015, to enact a plan providing for no more than 43 counties.
- Make the commission's plan law as is if the Legislature fails to act.
The remaining 60 counties in the state would face expansions of their boundaries.
If I understand #3 correctly, the intent is to say that the plan's goal is counties of at least 25,000 people, but that requirement may be waived if there is no practical boundary that can be drawn that keeps the new county under 5,000 square miles. That provision protects no current county from consolidation: Our biggest county, Meade, is only 3,471 square miles. The average county size is 1150 square miles. Get out your carving knives!
So what might the new South Dakota look like under HJR 1002? I'm glad you asked!
This map assumes the six counties with population over 25,000 are left intact. That makes for some tricky geometry in the northeastern part of the state. Your lines may vary.
Note that mathematically, 43 counties may be impossible under the requirements of this law. 800,000 people divided by 25,000 is 32. Even if we managed an average county size of 2300 square miles, twice the current average, we get about 30 counties.
Have fun with that map!