The Tenth Amendment Center celebrated a major legislative victory last week. And it proves how much impact a small, dedicated group of activists can make at the state level.
Last Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill reforming the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. The new law also takes on federal forfeiture programs by banning prosecutors from circumventing state laws by passing cases off to the feds in most situations.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert) sponsored House Bill 2477 (HB2477). The new law will require prosecutors to establish a higher evidentiary standard for asset forfeiture. Under the old standard law enforcement could take somebody’s stuff based merely on the preponderance of the evidence. HB2477 raises the bar, requiring police and prosecutors to provide “clear and convincing evidence” the property was linked to a crime. The law also includes stricter reporting requirements and oversight on the spending of forfeiture proceeds. While the new law will not require a criminal conviction before proceeding with asset forfeiture, it takes a step toward reforming Arizona law under a tougher standard.
This is a huge win.
Now some people will say this isn’t that big of a deal. After all, it’s a relatively modest reform. But you have to understand Arizona politics to grasp just how significant getting this bill signed into law was.
When some activists in the state told me they were going to push for forfeiture reform last fall, I thought to myself, ‘No freakin’ way!’ You see, law enforcement lobbyists have an amazing amount of influence in Arizona politics. I’ve seen cops kill so many bills there over the last few years, I was extremely pessimistic that any kind of reform could get done – much less something as significant as closing a loophole that lets cops pass off cases to the feds and the collect up to 80 percent of the forfeiture proceeds through the federal Equitable Sharing program.
But I underestimated the power of activism.
This group of grassroots folks who pushed HB2477 through the process wasn’t big. Maybe 20 people – if that. But they worked their butts off. They held weekly conference calls. They visited legislators in Phoenix. They made phone calls. They attended hearings. They sent out emails, They countered all of the arguments by lobbyists. And they motivated others in the state to put the pressure on. I know for a fact the bill was dead in committee at one point. But somehow these grassroots heroes managed to apply enough pressure to the committee chair to get a hearing.
Seriously. This is huge. I really can’t convey in an email what a David versus Goliath story this is. A little volunteer force of everyday Arizonians with no money beat the crap out of coordinated, well-funded law enforcement lobbyists.
This is how we win ladies and gentlemen. This group of people isn’t special. They were just committed to a cause and willing to put in a little time and effort to advance liberty.
So often, we feel like there is nothing we can do. I hear it all the time. There is a sense of hopelessness. And maybe if you’re focusing on changing Washington D.C., that’s true. It’s amazing how fast Trump ran into the arms of the establishment, isn’t it?
But at the state and local level – you can make a difference.
So pick a cause. Commit to it. Organize and get stuff done!
This is our model at the Tenth Amendment Center. That’s why I got involved almost 6 years ago now – and why I’m still involved today.
If you would like to help, you can join the TAC for as little as $2 per month. Those small memberships make a huge difference and allow us to keep things going. For more information, click HERE.