Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government was held on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Joe Bowen, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Joe Bowen, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Ernie Harris, Stan Humphries, Christian McDaniel, Morgan McGarvey, Gerald A. Neal, R.J. Palmer II, Albert Robinson, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Kevin D. Bratcher, Larry Clark, Joseph M. Fischer, Derrick Graham, Mike Harmon, Mary Lou Marzian, Sannie Overly, and Bart Rowland.
Guests: Representative Adam Koenig; John W. Bizzack, Commissioner, Criminal Justice Training; Jason Rector, President, Kentucky Constablesí Association, and Jeff Jacobs, Government Affairs Director, Kentucky Constablesí Association.
Constitutional Amendment Proposal Relating to Constables
Representative Adam Koenig discussed a proposed constitutional amendment to provide local governments an option to abolish the office of Constable. A copy of the 2013 Regular Session proposal was included in membersí folders.
Representative Koenig noted that similar proposals have been considered by the General Assembly in the last several regular sessions, but because none of the proposals have passed, the issue of whether to abolish Kentucky constables will likely be debated in the 2014 legislative session. Representative Koenig said it was his intention to reintroduce a version of his prior proposed constitutional amendment to give fiscal courts the authority to eliminate the office of constable by ordinance, thereby allowing each county to decide if the office is suitable for that countyís law enforcement needs.
Representative Koenig testified that constables have law enforcement powers similar to sheriffs by law. Constables largely perform fee-based duties such as serving court paperwork and traffic control. Members asked several general questions and expressed opinions and concerns as to both keeping and abolishing the office.
John Bizzack, Commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Training, testified that his office had studied whether constables were necessary. Commissioner Bizzack said the study concluded that they were not because Kentucky constables perform less than one quarter of one percent of all law enforcement duties. He expressed concerns about the lack of training requirements for constables and the potential liability to county governments for constable actions. The cost of training constables to a level commensurate with other peace officers is not likely justified based on the limited amount of law enforcement work that constables actually perform.
Jason Rector and Jeff Jacobs, Kentucky Constablesí Association, also testified. Mr. Rector said that, rather than seeking to abolish the office of constable, the General Assembly should address concerns with training standards in a manner that would retain the 569 constable positions that assist with law enforcement duties in the Commonwealth. The association has developed its own plan constable training to be funded by the constables themselves. He expressed concern about bias in the report on abolishing the constable office by noting that the report did not take any opinions on Kentuckyís constables from the general public, who constitute constablesí true constituency.
Mr. Jacobs provided an overview of constablesí work in the counties and presented a proposal for legislation that would add required certification and training requirements. He said the Constablesí Association opposed the proposed constitutional amendment because it gave the power to abolish the office to the local fiscal court rather than to the people of the county, and it does not alleviate the lack of training issue for those counties that choose to keep the constable office. Mr. Rector and Mr. Jacobs distributed a packet of information to the members that outlined the associationís proposal.
Several members indicated that they would like to see the matter resolved without a constitutional amendment proposal and said that the issues could be addressed by simply amending statutes governing constables and their duties, and by creating any necessary training requirements.
A copy of the materials distributed at the meeting can be found in the Legislative Research Commission library.
The business concluded, and the meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.