MLive: State Rep. Gary Glenn's forfeiture bill heads to governor's desk

GG_official_House_photo_II.jpgLANSING, MI — Since taking office in January, State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Larkin Township, has introduced 19 bills and two joint resolutions.

But Glenn's career in the Michigan Legislature passed a major milestone on Oct. 7 when a bill he introduced earlier this year was approved by both houses of the Legislature. He said he expects the bill to be signed into law soon by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The bill — House Bill 4499 of 2015 — is part of a package of bills that seek to reform Michigan's civil asset forfeiture process. Glenn's bill was passed by the Michigan House of Representatives in June in a 104-5 vote and passed by the Michigan Senate in a 38-0 vote on Oct. 7.

It's an issue that has come under fire in recent years.

Civil asset forfeitures have helped cash-strapped police departments to boost their budgets, but critics say the policy invites abuse.

In one notorious case, police raided the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, seizing the cars of 44 patrons who had attended a dance party because organizers had served alcohol without a liquor license.

Some of the legislation seven-bill package, now heading to the governor's desk, would require law enforcement agencies to file an annual report with the state detailing their forfeiture cases and proceeds.

Glenn's bill, if signed into law, will increase the burden of proof required to keep seized property during civil court proceedings related to drug and public nuisance cases, requiring "clear and convincing" evidence that it was related to a crime. Current law requires "a preponderance" of the evidence, a different legal standard.

Glenn explained why he supported the bills, which have received broad support from Democrats and Republicans alike, when they were passed by the Michigan House of Representatives in June.

"The whole point of the package, and my bill in particular, is to protect the personal property rights of people who are not convicted of a crime and may not even be charged with a crime," he said.

Michigan police agencies reported $24.3 million in civil asset forfeitures in 2013, according to the Michigan State Police, but those figures only include drug-specific cases, and 8 percent of agencies never filed a report.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, in a recent joint report, recommended eliminating civil asset forfeiture entirely, requiring a conviction before property can be forfeited in criminal court.

The report also recommended Michigan stop allowing local law enforcement agencies to pad their own budgets through forfeiture, eliminating any profit motive by directing revenues to a separate government department.

But the ACLU and Mackinac Center, along with national partners in a "Fix Forfeiture" alliance, have also championed the bills approved Wednesday, including the uniform reporting requirements, calling them a solid step in the right direction.

For the full list of bills and resolutions on which Glenn has been the primary sponsor, use the "search bills by sponsor" function on the Michigan Legislature's website.

Only one other bill introduced by Glenn has gotten much traction in the state Legislature.

House Bill 4334 of 2015 is part of a two-bill package aimed at stopping a $9.38 billion liability from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority from growing any larger. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in May and referred to the Michigan Senate's Committee on Government Operations.

Glenn was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives by voters of the 98th District in November 2014.

The 98th House District includes the city of Midland and Larkin, Lincoln, Homer, Midland, Lee and Jerome townships and the cities of Pinconning and Auburn and Gibson, Mount Forest, Pinconning, Garfield, Fraser, Beaver and Williams townships in western and northern Bay County.

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