Lone Star State Takes On Forfeiture and School Choice Reform

The Texas legislative session is off to the races with two reform bills set to strengthen property rights and expand school choice opportunities in the Lone Star state. The first bill, SB 380, would require a criminal conviction for property to be forfeited to law enforcement. The second, SB 3, would create a school choice program to give parents greater opportunities to choose what’s best for their children’s education.

Senate Bill 380 would secure greater property rights for Texans by requiring a criminal conviction to forfeit property. Currently, law enforcement agencies can seize property based on a mere preponderance of the evidence—the burden of proof required for property to be seized—and law enforcement agencies can keep up to 70 percent of forfeiture proceeds. In addition to requiring a criminal conviction, the bill would instead raise the burden of proof to clear and convincing evidence—a much higher standard, but still below the requirement for a criminal conviction—and require a property owner be convicted in order to have their property forfeited. According to IJ’s report, Policing for Profit, from 2000 to 2013, law enforcement agencies in Texas forfeited $540,689,972, or more than half a billion dollars.

The bill was filed in December by state Sen. Konni Burton, a Republican.  It contains identical language to HB 1364, which was filed by Rep. Senfornia Thompson, a Democrat.

Seeking to implement the largest school choice program in the country, SB 3 would increase educational opportunities for Texans by creating two programs. The first is an education savings account (ESA) providing parents with money to spend on educational expenses such as private K-12 school tuition, tutoring, and special education services. The second program is a tax-credit scholarship to allow low-income parents to use scholarship funds to pay for the school of their choice for their children, and allow businesses to count contributions to approved scholarship-granting organizations as a credit against their insurance premium taxes. If passed, it would be the largest school choice program in the country. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbot said that school choice was “a civil rights issue” in a rally attended by thousands in support of school choice reform in Texas.  IJ issued a statement applauding the filing of SB 3 and, should it ever be challenged after passage, vowed to defend the program on behalf of parents and children.

For more information about IJ’s work on school choice, visit: http://ij.org/issues/school-choice/

For more information about IJ’s work on civil forfeiture, visit: http://ij.org/issues/private-property/civil-forfeiture/

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