Thursday, April 7, 2016

Civil Asset Forfeiture: A Case Study in Team Straus' Obstruction


"Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need."
Ephesians 4:28

This afternoon, TPPF released a paper on Civil Asset forfeiture and held a policy primer on the same topic; as is the norm with TPPF, both are fantastic.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is the process by which law enforcement can legally confiscate a citizen’s property without a criminal conviction. It’s a procedure that conservatives, libertarians, and liberals all despise for different reasons. Given it’s unpopularity across the political spectrum, why has it been so hard to reform the process in Texas?!?

At this afternoon’s primer, an audience member asked that question of Rep. Phil Stephenson, who sponsored one of several bills last session that would have reigned in forfeiture. Stephenson blamed the Calendars committee, which bottled up the bill for a couple months. Ultimately, it was put onto the calendar on ‘chub day.’

Chub day is the final day to pass bills during a regular legislative session. In recent sessions, it’s been a time where conservative bills are placed at the end of a long calendar, behind a long slew of lobby or liberal bills. The idea is to force conservatives to pass the bad bills quickly so that they can get to the good bills in time. During this process, the Democrats talk and talk and talk (a process dubbed ‘chubbing’), the process drags on for several hours and when the clock strikes midnight the conservative bills are dead till next session. Chubbing is a game Team Straus plays to give members political cover so they can “blame” the Democrats for the death of various bills.

Chubbing is a direct consequence of the leadership decisions made by members at the start of the legislative session; in other words, Representative Stephenson’s civil asset forfeiture bill died the second Representative Stephenson voted to return Joe Straus to the speakership.

Several other conservative bills, dealing with topics ranging from fiscal policy, to pro-life, to religious liberty were similarly chubbed to death.

Texas desperately needs to reform (if not abolish) the practice of civil asset forfeiture.  There's widespread agreement about this across the political spectrum.  Unfortunately, under that current leadership, that means nothing in the Texas House of Representatives.

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