Conservative tax reform advocate Grover Norquist was in the Florida Capitol on Thursday showing support for an effort to make it harder for law enforcement agencies to seize personal property.
The practice, known as civil asset forfeiture, is supposed to be used to prevent contraband from a crime being used while an investigation or criminal case is underway.
But Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and both liberal and conservative activists say it's being abused by police forces to take people's property -- even from those who have not been charged with a crime -- and as a funding source for their departments.
"Horror stories from Florida are used in other states to pass their reforms, but now it's time for Florida to focus on the challenges here," Norquist sad. "This reform in Florida ... will also move us forward in Washington, D.C."
Caldwell and Brandes are sponsoring legislation (HB 883, SB 1044) that would require a criminal charge before assets could be seized and a conviction before they can be forfeited permanently. In additoin to Norquist's group Americans for Tax Reform, it has support from the American Civil Liberties Union, National Federation of Independent Business and the James Madison Institute.
Law enforcement groups, however, say civil asset forfeiture is important. Both the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriff's Association oppose the legislation.