After Trump’s offer to ‘destroy’ senator, a push for forfeiture reform


Highlights

A bipartisan, ideologically diverse group of legislators are proposing civil asset forfeiture reform in Texas.

Last week, a Texas sheriff complained to President Trump about a Texas senator who was backing that reform.

“You wanna give me his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump said at the White House meeting.

Call them brave, principled, foolhardy, or maybe just unpersuaded that President Donald Trump really meant what he said when he declared at the White House last week that he would be happy to “destroy” the career of a Texas state senator who advocated civil forfeiture reform, but two senators and a half dozen members of the House did just that at a Capitol news conference Wednesday.

“Texas is known as a beacon of economic and personal liberty. We take our rights seriously here, particularly our property rights,” said state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth. “The seizing and keeping of an individual’s property without a criminal conviction is in opposition to everything this country was founded upon and it must be changed.”

“It’s unbecoming to be policing for profits,” said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

But Trump weighed in on the other side of the issue at a White House meeting with sheriffs on Feb. 7.

When Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County complained to Trump that, “There’s a state senator in Texas that was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money,” Trump interjected, “Can you believe that?”

“I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed,” Eavenson said.

“Who is the state senator? You wanna give me his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump said.

Eavenson did not identify the senator, but state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who was not at Wednesday’s press conference, represents Rockwall County and told constituents before the legislative session that he was considering filing a bill that would require that property cannot be seized without a criminal conviction. Hall has not filed an asset forfeiture bill.

Asked at Wednesday’s event whether any of the lawmakers now felt targeted for destruction by the president for their stance, they looked at each other and smiled, but remained silent.

“I believe that’s no comment,” said Derek Cohen, deputy director of the Center for Effective Justice at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, which hosted the news conference.

“This is an issue that needs to be addressed,” Burton said of her reform legislation.

“Come and take it,” said Rep. Matt Schaeffer, R-Tyler.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Burton’s legislation, Senate Bill 380, and House Bill 1364, an identical House bill filed by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would repeal civil asset forfeiture laws in Texas that allow the taking of an individual’s property without a criminal conviction.

Reforming civil asset forfeiture laws has backing from legislators across the ideological spectrum, and Cohen said a statewide poll commissioned by the Texas Public Policy Foundation showed overwhelming support in every corner of the state.

The poll of 922 registered Texas voters conducted Jan. 22-29 by Baselice & Associates found that 88 percent did not believe the state or federal government should be allowed to take and keep a person’s property without a criminal conviction. That opinion was strongest in the region encompassing Austin, Waco and Bryan, where 96 percent did not believe it ought to be permitted.

The libertarian Institute for Justice, which has studied the issue, describes Texas forfeiture law as among the most expansive in the country, with no conviction required, little protection for innocent third-party property owners and as much as 70 percent of the forfeiture proceeds — which totaled more than a half billion dollars between 2001 and 2013 — going to law enforcement.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Community news: H-E-B hosts Feast of Sharing on Tuesday

TRAVIS COUNTY SOUTH AUSTIN Feast of Sharing on Tuesday H-E-B will host its 28th annual Feast of Sharing dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. The free event will include live entertainment and a children’s area. The meal will include turkey, mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley, pies, dinner rolls...
Traffic report for Monday, Nov. 20, 2017

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The outside lane on the southbound access road will be closed as needed between Oltorf Street and St. Edwards Drive from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The outside lane on the northbound access road will be closed just north of Stassney Lane from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesday. Variable closures on the northbound...
Threat cleared at Williamson County apartments, sheriff says
Threat cleared at Williamson County apartments, sheriff says

7:45 p.m. update: Authorities say residents are now able to move safely in and out of the Preserve at Rolling Oaks Apartments in Williamson County after law enforcement cleared a threat made earlier at the complex. “A specific threat was made in the area & after searching with multiple agencies we feel confident area is clear. Though nothing...
Border Patrol agent dies, partner seriously injured in Big Bend area

The FBI has taken charge of an investigation into the death of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent and the serious injury of another Sunday in the Big Bend area of Texas. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez and his partner were taken to a hospital after sustaining injuries while on duty around Big Bend. Martinez died and his partner, whose...
Man accused of baseball bat attacks in North Austin, police say

NORTH AUSTIN Man accused of baseball bat attacks A 26-year-old man was charged with five counts of aggravated assault after police said he struck five people with his hands and an aluminum baseball bat in North Austin. Kenney Irons was booked into the Travis County Jail in lieu of bail set at $100,000 following the incident at Zoe’s Helping Hand...
More Stories