Counties, some cities getting billed for 'Marsy's Law' notification upgrades

Jul 6, 2018

North Dakota counties – and cities with municipal courts – are getting billed for upgrades to the state’s crime victim notification system that are needed after voters passed a victim rights constitutional amendment.

That amendment – called “Marsy’s Law” – was approved by voters in 2016.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem asked the 2017 Legislature for $815,000 over two years to make changes to the system, called “SAVIN” – which stands for  Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification.

North Dakota Association of Counties executive director Terry Traynor said the Legislature approved spending $815,000 – but made a last minute change as to where that money would come from.

"$500,000 was actually in his (Stenehjem's) budget," Traynor said. "But the final bill directed that the counties and cities collectively come up with the remainder, $350,000."

Traynor said the Legislature’s rationale was that Marsy’s Law anticipates a notification responsibility at the local level, as well as the state level. The amounts each county and city would pay-in would be based on the number of criminal case filings.

"Obviously, Cass, Burleigh, Grand Forks and Ward, as well as the cities of Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot pay the highest," Traynor said.

Burleigh County Commissioners weren’t happy about the $12,500 bill the county has to pay.

"It (Marsy's Law) was touted back then that it wasn't going to cost anybody any money," said Burleigh County Commissioner Jerry Woodcox. "That turned out to be a fallacy, and now we have to pay for implementing this thing."

Commissioners decided to take the money out of the “victim-witness fund,” assessed by the courts on criminal cases and used to fund victim-witness advocates.

It will take two or three years to pay off the changes to “SAVIN.”