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Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Dec 17, 2014 @ 05:37:50

 

 
Civil Asset Forfeiture
On December 8 the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) invited me to participate in a panel discussion on “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform: Fighting Contraband, Upholding Civil Liberties.” Derek Cohen from TPPF moderated the panel and I was joined by Andrew Kloster of the Heritage Foundation, Matt Miller from the Institute of Justice, and Shannon Edmonds from the state prosecutor’s association. Here is an article about the event.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process by which the state may confiscate assets of an individual that are alleged to be proceeds or instruments of crime. Current law allows such property to be seized even if the property owner is never charged, much less convicted of a crime. If charges are brought, the seized property may still be disposed of prior to conviction, or in the case of acquittal, does not have to be returned to the owner.

It is a powerful tool in the hands of law enforcement developed and often used to attack drug dealers, cartels, and human trafficking rings. It also has increasingly become a significant source of government funds. 

Like many government ideas gone awry, the thought behind civil asset forfeitures may have had a kernel of sense in it, when it was first conceived. It is right that the government requires a convicted criminal to make restitution, and such restitution should include ill-gotten gains. It may well be prudent too for civil authorities to “freeze” certain property clearly connected with criminal activity until sentencing has occurred. 

However, the seizure of property, the fruit of someone’s life and liberty, in the name of justice, must be performed with care, humility, and due process, not like highway robbery.

Proving your innocence to claim your property was never an idea contemplated by the Constitution.  It should never be easier to take a person’s property than it is to convict them of a crime.

To read more about this subject see my op-ed in the Longview News Journal

Christmas in the Capitol
My wife, Susan, joined the other legislative ladies on December 5 to decorate the Christmas tree on the floor of the Texas House. It was adorned with hand decorated ornaments from each of the 150 districts in the state. District Seven’s beautiful ornament was designed and decorated by Dena Miller, owner of Create ART! in Longview on Gilmer Rd. We appreciate her efforts and enjoyed seeing the ornament on the tree.
  
      

Back in the District
On December 11, I was privileged to tour La Fama Foods’s plant in Ore City with its President, Raul Roel. La Fama produces and distributes tortillas, chips, and fresh produce. It also has a facility in Longview.

Later in the day I attended and addressed the Republican Party of Upshur County at their quarterly meeting near Gilmer. After rejoicing with the newly elected officials (now all Republican!), I gave a report on the election’s result on the composition of the state legislature, the speaker’s race, and what to expect in the coming legislative session including several bills that I pre-filed.

The day ended back in Longview, learning more about Longview Christian School and its vision for serving and educating children at its annual fundraising dinner.

What’s Coming
Mark your calendar now for these upcoming events:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at Noon—Presentation about the 84th Legislature to Gilmer Rotary Club, Civic Center, in Gilmer.

Monday, January 5, 2015 at 7 p.m.—Presentation about the 84th Legislature to We The People Longview, Longview First Church of The Nazarene, located at 2601 H.G. Mosley Parkway. 

January 6, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. —Town Hall Meeting and Commissioning Ceremony, location to be determined.

January 13, 2015 at Noon—84th Legislature convenes and at 4:00 or an hour after adjournment (whichever is later) an Election Sermon will be delivered in the Capitol Auditorium.

For Texas and Liberty,

David Simpson
State Representative District 7
Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* and pol. adv. paid for by the David Simpson Campaign.
P.O. Box 5100, Longview, TX 75608

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New office, new staff & next session!

Dec 17, 2014 @ 05:36:31

 

 

We’ve Moved!
After the elections in November and the pre-filing of bills, there is one sure way to know when a legislative session is right around the corner—the movers hauling furniture through the halls of the Capitol. Not all offices are created equally and office space is provided according to seniority. Beginning with the member with the most seniority, each elected representative is given the opportunity to choose an office, a seat on the House floor, and a parking spot. 

Last session I chose to remain in the office I had during my freshman term. However, with numerous senior legislators retiring or running for other offices, there were a variety of offices available with more room for staff and you! We picked our office on a Tuesday, and were moved into our new office the following Friday. 
 

Our mailing addresses remain the same, but you can now find us at E2.502 in the Capitol Extension. Come on by, we would love to see you.

New Staff
As the workload picks up during a session, we have an opportunity to pick up additional staff to share the load. While there are always a lot of eager young applicants looking for entry positions, this year we are blessed with a relatively well-experienced staff in place to serve you.  My chief of staff, Kathi Seay, and legislative director, Michael Bullock, will be returning in their positions. Sharon Guthrie, our district director, will be coming to Austin to handle administrative and constituent issues. Tanisha Bush, an employee from last session, will be coming back as a law school intern to help analyze legislation. Emily Nicholson, a new hire from the Tyler area who will be working on legislation and communications, will join her. 

If you would like to talk to anyone about constituent or policy issues, give our Capitol office a call at 512-463-0750. We would love to hear from you.

Gearing Up
The legislative session does not begin until January 13, 2015, but the work is already in full swing. I spent this past week in Austin attending the Legislative Budget Board meeting which set the rate of growth of the Texas economy to be used to establish the constitutional cap on state spending, met with newly-elected representatives and other stake holders on various issues, and continued settling into the new office. 

Back in the district, I have been meeting with constituents and listening to concerns and legislative ideas to improve our government. 
 

It was a delight to witness and participate in the re-activation of the Third Battalion, 19th Regiment, of the Texas State Guard in Kilgore last Saturday morning.

What’s Coming
Mark your calendar now for these upcoming events:

Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 6 p.m.—Brief greeting and report to Republican Club of Upshur County at its fourth quarter meeting at Indian Rock Baptist Church located at 4944 Texas 154 near Gilmer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014—Last day to receive campaign contributions till after the 84th Legislature, Regular Session.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at Noon—Presentation about the 84th Legislature to Gilmer Rotary Club, Civic Center, in Gilmer.

Monday, January 5, 2015 at 7 p.m.—Presentation about the 84th Legislature to We The People Longview, Longview First Church of The Nazarene, located at 2601 H.G. Mosley Parkway. 

January 6, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. —Town Hall Meeting and Commissioning Ceremony, location to be determined.

January 13, 2015 at Noon—84th Legislature convenes and at 4:00 or an hour after adjournment (whichever is later) an Election Sermon will be delivered in the Capitol Auditorium.

For Texas and Liberty,

David Simpson
State Representative District 7

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Pre-filed Legislation

Dec 11, 2014 @ 12:22:41

 

 

The first day to pre-file legislation, Monday, November 10, ended with more than 350 bills being pre-filed. Since legislation is not considered in numerical order, a low bill number does not improve a bill’s chance of passing. It does speed the referral of the bill to committee and may indicate legislative priorities.

Three members filed legislation to allow for open-carry of handguns in a holster. With media coverage of Governor-elect Abbott’s willingness to sign such legislation, there is a fair probability one of those bills will be successful. 

Other issues of interest included increasing the minimum wage, amending the constitution to allow members of the same sex to “marry” in the state, banning texting while driving, expanding access to health care, and funding transportation. 

Three issues of concern to me warranted pre-filing bills. 
  • HB (House Bill) 131 is an alternative to term limits for elected officials without taking away the ability to vote for a candidate of their choice from the electorate. Capping an elected officials retirement benefits at 12 years of service would remove an incentive for elected officials to remain in office for the perks that increase with longevity. The bill would cap annual retirement benefits at $30,000 and it would no longer be tied to a district judge’s pay. Currently there are members of the House eligible for retirement annuities in excess of $100,000 a year. Click here to access the full bill.
  • HB 133 would repeal a defacto retroactive and dishonest property tax by removing a penalty imposed for changing the use of land from agriculture to some other purpose. Currently a change in status triggers a penalty equivalent to five years of taxes, had the property not been appraised with an agricultural exemption, plus a seven percent rate of interest. People should not be penalized or taxed for a fictitious use of their property. Click here to access the full bill.
  • HB 134 would improve transparency for proposed increases in public debt. It would provide taxpayers with much needed information on the ballot when they are asked to approve debt through general obligation bonds which are funded with their tax dollars. For each proposition at the state and local level, the appropriate authorities would be required to put on the ballot the current obligation debt, the maximum amount of additional debt to be authorized by the proposition, and the maximum estimated cost to repay the general obligation debt that would be authorized by the proposed proposition. It is unconscionable that the state requires auto dealers to give much of this information when you buy a new car, but the government does not provide it when it asks citizens to authorize millions or billions of dollars in additional public debt. Texas has one of the highest amounts of debt per capita in the nation. Click here to access the full bill.  
If you would like to look at a specific bill or peruse all the bills that have been filed, here is a good place to start.  

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