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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=23317
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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: March 20, 2017 03:07 PM
From: Representative Thomas R. Caltagirone
To: All House members
Subject: Prohibits Felons and Sex Offenders from serving as Constables and Increase in Surcharge
 
I will soon be reintroducing HB 1571 from last session. As you know, in 2013 my HR 138 passed the House authorizing the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to conduct a comprehensive study of all aspects concerning constables in Pennsylvania. The JSGC issued its report in April of 2014 and its recommendations to improve accountability, qualifications, training and professionalism of constables. To that end, this bill will includes two of the more basic recommendations from the Constables in Pennsylvania: Proposed Statutory Reforms study. First, the bill will prohibits felons and registered sex offenders from serving as Pennsylvania State Constables and second, the bill will increase the surcharge fee in each case before a magisterial district judge from $5 to $9.

Currently, one simply needs to be elected or appointed to serve as a constable. Constables serve an important role in our justice system and wield significant power over the public they serve. Unfortunately, there have been many examples of misconduct among constables. For example, a constable in Pittsburgh fatally shot his ex-girlfriend five times in the head and chest and killed himself over the breakup over their two month relationship. Another constable was charged with statutory sexual assault of a 15 year old girl and another shot and paralyzed a man over an un-paid parking ticket. These stories are a few of the many shocking examples of the horrific behavior some in the constable ranks have shown. Based on the recommendations of the JSGC, a good starting point to reign in some of this behavior is to prohibit convicted felons and sex offenders from serving as constables.

Next, the bill includes a modest fee increase that is vital to ensure the long-term financial viability of the Constables Fund. Under Act 49 of 2009, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) is required to house the Constables’ Education and Training Board to train and certify constables and deputy constables through its Constables’ Education Training Program. PCCD provides oversight and staff support to the Constables’ Education and Training Board. Despite the Board’s best efforts to conserve, the expenditures to train constables in the Commonwealth have exceeded the revenue collected in the Constables’ Fund over the past decade. By 2019, unless action is taken, the Fund will exhaust itself.

The bill will only increase the surcharge fee in each criminal and civil case before a magisterial district judge from $5 to $9. This fee has not been increased in 20 years. The $9 fee is needed to stabilize the Constables Fund in the out years. To be clear, this bill is a first step to improve accountability, qualifications, training and professionalism of constables. There will be other issues we must address, and there will be additional legislation to consider. With that in mind, I invite you to join me and cosponsoring this important legislation.



Introduced as HB1434