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House panel approves bill that would allow eliminating constable offices

By: Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg Email

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - Some Kentucky lawmakers Tuesday approved a bill that would amend the state's constitution to allow counties to do away with the office of constable.

The House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee okayed the measure, otherwise known as House Bill 158.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, told WYMT in a previous interview the office of constable is obsolete.

"I'm sure constables were important at the last writing of the Constitution in 1892," Koenig said. "But their time has come and gone."

But Ben Fields, a constable in Letcher County, disagrees. Rural areas like Eastern Kentucky need constables, Fields said.

"Some of the bigger areas...they have a bigger police force, more deputy sheriffs, more city police," he said. "In the mountain region and rural areas and small towns I think the constables have a lot more impact than what people think."

Fields, who is also a deputy jailer, said constables are just as important as other law enforcement agencies he works with on a daily basis.

"With constables, you have at least one (law enforcement) person in every district," he said.

A similar bill sponsored by Koenig did not pass the General Assembly last year.

Constables are elected and have the same law enforcement powers as sheriffs.
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Original story by Matthew Rand, 2/26/13:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - Kentucky is one step closer to letting voters decide if they want to amend the constitution to make constables optional. The powers and privileges of constables are guaranteed by the Kentucky Constitution. If Kentuckians approved the amendment, counties would have the option to end their constable posts.

Proponents of the bill say constables are obsolete and a potential liability, but constables we talked to say they provide a valuable public service.

Lawmakers have been trying for years to pass a bill that would limit the authority of constables, if not do away with them all together. State Representative Adam Koenig is sponsoring a bill that could do just that. He says constables are obsolete.

"I'm sure the constables were important at the last writing of the constitution in 1892, but their time has come and gone," he said.

Constables are elected and have the same law enforcement powers as sheriffs, but lack the same requirements. Koenig says Kentucky is better served by trained officers.

"Anyone can get elected constable. In fact there was a convicted felon recently elected constable in Clay County. That just doesn't make any sense to me."

Constables are guaranteed their power by the Kentucky Constitution. This bill would amend the constitution to let counties decide whether to keep their constables. Kentuckians would need to ratify the amendment for it to become law.

Constables we talked to say they should not be judged by a few bad apples. They say constables are still relevant.

"We've got law enforcement that do a good job and you know, but being a first responder sometimes when it's close by you can save a life," said Frank Bryant, a constable from Wolfe County.

Bryant says Kentucky does not need an amendment to get rid of constables, and if people do not like their constables, they can simply vote them out of office.

The bill now heads to the full house for consideration. Koenig says he is optimistic he can get a vote during this session.


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