Dear NMA Members,
In late April, U.S. Representative Tim Walberg of Michigan introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act of 2019. The proposed legislation, which would institute much of the reform for which the NMA has been lobbying, has strong bipartisan support. The FAIR Act will hold the government to a much higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence . . . that there was a substantial connection between the property and the offense” before that property could be seized. Current seizure standards allow agencies to confiscate property from a person or persons who have not been convicted, or even charged, with a crime.
Why is this important to motorists? Because those on the road have become primary targets of asset seizures in recent years. The Washington Post reported in 2014 that in the 13 years of 2001 through 2013, the government conducted nearly 62,000 seizures on the nation’s highways, resulting in the confiscation of property worth more than $2.5 billion.
That is why civil asset forfeiture reform, along with the prohibition of federal funding for state-based traffic ticket quota programs, is the focus of current NMA lobbying efforts in the halls of Congress.
Rep. Walberg has just proposed a bipartisan amendment, ordered as Amendment #97, to H.R. 3055 which is a comprehensive appropriations bill that includes FY 2020 funding for the Department of Justice. The Walberg amendment will prohibit the DOJ from using any money to undertake specific actions related to state or local civil asset forfeiture activities. This will make it harder for local law enforcement to use the federal government to bypass state laws when pursuing asset seizures.
This isn’t the final solution to reform, but it is an important step along the way. According to the Majority Leader’s office, the House will begin debate on H.R. 3055 later today. While the Walberg amendment could be debated as early as this evening, there will not be any recorded votes on the amendments to H.R. 3055 until tomorrow — Thursday June 20th — at the earliest.
The NMA has joined the Institute for Justice and the ACLU in endorsing the Walberg amendment to all members of the U.S. House. of Representatives. Because this is fast-moving, please call or email your representative today or tomorrow expressing your support of Amendment #97 to H.R. 3055.
We will keep you informed of the progress. If you haven’t already donated to the NMA’s 2019 Legislative Fundraising Campaign, please consider doing so now. The money raised will help us keep up the lobbying pressure for this reform as well as pushing through the NMA’s DETER Act which will stop the National Highway Trafic Safety Administration from funding several hundred million dollars worth of high-visibility enforcement actions every year based largely on ticketing activity.
Donations to the NMA can be made online or by calling us toll-free at 800-882-2785 weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm Central.