TNGOP Kills Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform in the State

Yesterday, Tennessee House Bill 340 was placed into “summer study” by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee effectively giving it “the kiss of death.” Summer study is a designation placed on bills to field them for further review during the time when the legislature is not in session. Rarely do bills return from this designation for a vote.

The legislation, introduced by East Tennessee’s own Rep. Martin Daniel, was pointed to make real changes to civil asset forfeiture (CAF) by supporting due process at the state level and effectively stopping the federal government's equitable sharing program from victimizing innocent Tennesseans.

During the months of lobbying and prep work, Tennesseans Against Civil Asset Forfeiture procured 39 cosponsors on HB0340 including Daniel ,Todd, Lafferty, Staples, Faison, Terry, Holt, Hill T, Hill M, Rudder, Hall, Parkinson, Sexton J, DeBerry, Jernigan, Hulsey, Hardaway, Lamar, Hodges, Thompson, Hakeem, Calfee, Dixie, Bricken, Rudd, Dunn, Cepicky, Crawford, Eldridge, Byrd, Wright, Love, Kumar, Chism, Cooper, Miller, Van Huss, Shaw, and Carr.

Rep Daniel took a strong stand for the autonomy of state law by fighting against the equitable sharing loophole often used by law enforcement to skirt state law for asset forfeiture cases.

Unsurprisingly, sources within Tennesseans Against Civil Asset Forfeiture have informed us that the police lobby was working overtime to keep this bill from being even considered in committee calling and meeting with legislators and subcommittee members, putting extreme pressure on the group to continue the anti-American practice of federal equitable sharing and civil asset forfeiture.

I’d like to know if these lobbyists were being paid with tax dollars while lobbying to steal our property without due process.

During the 11th hour before the subcommittee vote, members and advocates for HB340 were told their remarks would not be heard as there was an agreement made before the vote to place this legislation on summer study, rather than giving subcommittee members the negative exposure of a vote against CAF reform.

From my discussions, I can be clear that subcommittee members Mike Carter, Bill Beck, Michael Curcio, and Johnny Garrett had no desire to let this legislation move through the subcommittee. These individuals were clear that they were against the will of 80% of Tennesseans who want to see reform on this issue.

Here are some insights from this fight:

  • 67% of House Republicans refused to support by declining to cosponsor

  • 58% of House Democrats actively fought for reform on this issue

I’ll leave you with this question: do you still think TN House Republicans really believe in liberty?

With the exception of a few East TN Republican House members, I say “no.”

ArticleJoshua Eakle