Tuesday, January 12, 2010

State Should Watch Unfunded Mandates

A constables' training bill passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives this afternoon should give the State as well as county officials pause to consider the problem of unfunded mandates:

However, in the short discussion on this legislation before it was voted on today, it was determined that many, if not most rural constables were already committed to the training which this bill (that has yet to be put before the Senate floor, if the legislative calendar reads correctly) mandates. Further, this legislation allocates no money to help train these rural volunteers in the duties of the position to which they have been elected-and that means that the training will continue to be at the constable's expense, despite being mandated at an increased level by the State.

Requiring greater training and certification for constables is a good idea for all concerned, but the State of Tennessee should move away from the general practice of the federal government, which is to require things and practices of States, counties, localities, and citizens which cost money while being unwilling to pay for the requirements to be met. This legislation appears to have the support of the Tennessee Constables' Association, since that body knows that their members are already engaging in the proposed training. However, all concerned-legislators, county governments, sheriffs, and constables-should remember that we presently find ourselves in a time of great economic disparity in which our rural counties find themselves increasingly cash-strapped. Unless there is a very quick rebound in the fortunes of the economy, rural counties may not have the resources to give their sheriffs everything that they may need to do their job to the most effective degree possible, and that may mean a greater reliance on rural constables than many are used to.

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