Wyoming Liberty Group
Although many excellent bills in the 2015 Legislative Session did not become law—asset forfeiture reform, drone regulation, and RS2477 rights of way, to name a few—a number of excellent amendments to the Wyoming Election Code passed and were signed by Governor Mead. Given the campaign finance “reform” efforts nationwide that amount to little more than censorship by red tape (or even more direct efforts), one could describe the 2015 session as a political speech boogaloo.
On Friday, in a devastating final vote of 7-to-23, the Wyoming Senate voted to not override Governor Matt Mead’s veto of Senate Enrolled Act 1 (SEA 1), which would have amended the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act (WCSA) to require a felony conviction before alleged drug-related property could be forfeited to the state. In his veto letter, the Governor argued that we, the critics, “have not found an egregious case or one abuse of law or of individual rights in a 40 year history.” This was, politely, an exaggeration of our findings. In fact, the absence of due process is such a serious concern in the WCSA that the current law may actually be undone by the courts before the Legislature can consider reform again.
On Friday the Institute for Justice (IJ) won an important free speech victory against the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). IJ charitably refers to the PDC as “bullies.” I think a more apt description of the PDC is “free-speech-hating thugs.” Following a victory against such opposition, gloating is not only appropriate, but perhaps necessary.
After it passed the Wyoming Legislature overwhelmingly, with a final overall vote of 80-9 (1 excused), this evening Governor Matt Mead vetoed Senate Enrolled Act 1–or Senate File 14. The bill would replace civil forfeiture under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act with criminal forfeiture, requiring a felony conviction before alleged drug property could be forfeited to the government. Governor Mead has rarely used his veto power in the five legislative sessions since he took office, so it is especially shocking he would veto a strong reform for due process and property rights.
House Bill 18 – the Drone Protection Act – died this morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 2-3. The bill was a committee bill, considered by the Joint Judiciary Committee (that is, the Senate and House committees together) in the interim between the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions. The bill passed the House 41-19, but had House committee and additional floor amendments that raised concerns in the Senate Judiciary.
CHEYENNE – The Wyoming House of Representatives passed Senate File 14 today with a vote of 54-6, which follows the Senate’s passing vote of 26-3 (1 excused) on January 23. The bill would amend the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act to end the practice of civil forfeiture by requiring an individual to be convicted of a drug felony before the state can permanently confiscate property.
After narrowly emerging from the Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee by a 3-2 vote on Monday, yesterday the entire Wyoming Senate began to consider Senate File 14, which would replace civil forfeiture under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act with criminal forfeiture. That is, instead of law enforcement being able to seize and forfeit cash, cars, firearms and other property that is allegedly related to the drug trade through a civil proceeding (where the property owner is not provided an attorney and is subject to a preponderance of the evidence standard instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt), the property owner will have to be convicted of a drug felony before losing any property.