A Senate bill that would give county governments more control over constables could have enough support to become law. Originally, both chambers pursued constitutional amendments to eliminate the office of constable altogether, spurred by several recent instances of constables abusing their power. But an agreement not to crowd the fall ballot with constitutional amendments led to the Senate proposal.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Larry Clark says now that the bill’s scope has changed, it has a good chance of making it through the House.
“I think it’ll get a favorable look here because we do have a specific problem here in Jefferson County we need to address,” Clark says.
The new bill would allow local counties to add or restrict the current responsibilities of constables. But they could not eliminate all responsibilities. The hope is some counties will increase the pay and responsibilities of the office to attract high quality candidates. Other counties could choose to strip constables of many of their current responsibilities.
State Representative Joni Jenkins sponsored the House’s constitutional amendment on the issue. She says she hasn’t decided whether to support the Senate’s version.
"I know that many of the groups that are concerned about the issues of constables are favorable to that bill as well as my, as the constitutional amendment to abolish the office too. So there may be more than one way we can address the situation,” she says.
The bill has passed a Senate committee, and a vote by the full Senate is expected soon.