Posts Tagged ‘property rights’

Law enforcement agencies receive a lump of coal for abusive practices

Law enforcement agencies receive a lump of coal for abusive practices

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today announced that Tennesseans have overwhelmingly chosen the 23rd Judicial District, and Cheatham, Dickson, and Humphreys Counties as the recipients of the 2013 Lump of Coal Award.

The Beacon Center awards this dubious distinction annually to the person or group in Tennessee who, more than any other during the past year, acted as a Grinch to Tennesseans by bah-humbugging the principles of liberty and limited government.

The judicial district and three counties have become infamous for their use of a controversial tactic known as “policing for profit.” Abusing the state’s civil forfeiture laws, the agencies have begun seizing cash, vehicles, and other personal items in traffic stops, forcing the property owner to prove that the cash or property was not related to criminal activity. Innocent victims often spend months attempting to recoup seized property, sometimes to no avail.

An in-depth documentary by Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 revealed troubling facts about the practice, such as substantially more traffic stops on westbound Interstate lanes—where cash proceeds from drug sales frequently flow—while drugs traveling in the eastbound lanes were reportedly allowed to pass unfettered. Officers were also caught on camera admitting that they had little evidence that property was associated with a crime before seizing it anyway.

After the Beacon Center narrowed the list of offenders down to four finalists, the recipient of the Lump of Coal Award was chosen directly by Tennesseans in an online poll. The four law enforcement agencies received the most votes for the not-so-coveted prize, beating out Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, and Hemlock Semiconductor with 40 percent of the vote.

“Tennesseans have sent a clear message that ‘policing for profit’ will not be tolerated,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “This practice turns the Constitution on its head, and it’s time for lawmakers to heed the outcry of law-abiding citizens who want their property rights protected from this abuse, while still preserving the authority of law enforcement to target criminals.”

State legislators have indicated that they will study this issue and offer possible reforms to the state’s civil forfeiture laws when they reconvene next month. Earlier this year, the Beacon Center published a policy brief on the practice, which can be found at http://www.beacontn.org/2013/03/the-perils-of-policing-for-profit/.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

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December 17th, 2013 | Feature, Recent News

An Idea a Day: A Roadmap to Freedom

An Idea a Day: A Roadmap to Freedom

Every other year, the Beacon Center publishes “An Idea a Day” for each remaining legislative day of the current General Assembly. This year’s publication offers a roadmap to freedom, providing 57 ideas for the second session of the 108th General Assembly. Click here to download the full roadmap, or scroll through the ideas below, broken down by category.

Taxes

Repeal the Hall Income Tax on stocks and bonds, alleviating the burden on low-income retirees and inviting wealthy individuals to move into Tennessee to invest in job growth.
Contact Justin Owen at justin@beacontn.org

Scale back corporate taxes on all businesses, which are per capita the highest of all bordering states.
Read “Corporate Welfare Infographic” at bit.ly/16EIq67

Place a limit on the growth of local property taxes unless approved by voters via referendum.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Cut the Real Estate Transfer Tax by one-third, ending the unnecessary state purchasing of wetlands and forestland.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 9 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Review and eliminate all taxes and fees that cost more to enforce than is collected in revenue therefrom.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Eliminate the cattle tax that funds the Beef Promotion Board campaign, which uses tax dollars to urge Tennesseans to eat more beef.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 6 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Spending

Base the state Copeland Cap on population plus inflation growth, limiting government spending and allowing Tennesseans to keep more money in their pockets.
Watch Justin Owen’s Copeland Cap Testimony (46 minute mark) at bit.ly/17f6D8e

Make the Copeland Cap more stringent by requiring a supermajority vote of the legislature to “bust” the cap.
Watch Justin Owen’s Copeland Cap Testimony (46 minute mark) at bit.ly/17f6D8e

Enact a provision that will automatically return surplus revenue to taxpayers after topping off the rainy day fund.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 24 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Establish an independent spending commission to recommend spending cuts to the governor and legislature.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 24 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Require a waiting period of 72 hours between the time in which an appropriations or revenue-related bill is introduced and a vote is taken.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 12 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Get the government out of the golf course business by selling state-owned golf courses or leasing courses that operate at a loss.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 7 at bit.ly/17CQqty

End the failed switchgrass-to-ethanol program that has cost taxpayers more than $60 million yet has failed to become commercially viable.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 17 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Education

Allow parents across Tennessee to take a portion of the funding already spent on their child and send their child to the school of their choice.
Read “The Choice is Ours” at bit.ly/YtQcLw

Grade all public and charter schools based on academic performance and learning gains with easy-to-understand A, B, C, D, or F grades.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 25 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Ensure that school districts meet the national standard for the percentage of spending that goes into the classroom, curbing out-of-control administrative costs.
Read “Following the Money” at bit.ly/16WFC4G

Create alternative teacher certification paths, encouraging successful business and community leaders to enter the teaching profession.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 27 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Refuse efforts by President Obama to expand Pre-Kindergarten, a costly program that has failed to provide long-term benefits to Tennessee children.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 26 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Remove roadblocks to online and blended learning opportunities that provide additional options for children of various backgrounds.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 29 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Healthcare

Refuse the unaffordable and immoral push to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
Read “Medicaid Expansion Infographic” at bit.ly/XEhyBH

Allow Tennesseans to purchase health insurance from any state in the country.
Read “A Cure for What Ails Us” at bit.ly/1b9QKiJ

Repeal laws that favor employer-based insurance over individually-purchased insurance that has more portability, and urge Congress to do the same.
Read “A Cure for What Ails Us” at bit.ly/1b9QKiJ

Permit young Tennesseans to purchase more affordable “mandate light” health insurance plans.
Read “A Cure for What Ails Us” at bit.ly/1b9QKiJ

Provide state employees with a consumer-driven health insurance plan option with a health savings account in lieu of their current plan.
Contact Justin Owen at justin@beacontn.org

Reform medical licensing and scope of practice laws to address doctor shortages and expand Tennesseans’ choices when seeking healthcare services.
Read “A Cure for What Ails Us” at bit.ly/1b9QKiJ

Repeal protectionist Certificate of Need laws that limit access to healthcare services.
Read “A Cure for What Ails Us” at bit.ly/1b9QKiJ

Property Rights

Prohibit the forced sale of property via eminent domain.
Read “Eminent Domain No Excuse for Property Abuse” at bit.ly/1aa7rJE

Require approval of local legislative bodies before unelected and unaccountable agencies can take private property using eminent domain.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 57 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Treat regulations on private property as “takings” and provide property owners with compensation when regulations diminish the value of their property.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 58 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Give existing owners an option to receive equity stake in a redevelopment entity when their property is taken as part of a redevelopment plan.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Require government entities to follow foreclosure proceedings rather than use property condemnation in order to better protect property owners.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Permit a referendum of voters when their property is subject to annexation by a nearby city.
Contact Justin Owen at justin@beacontn.org

Regulation

Reduce the number of occupations requiring a license, currently at 111, which makes Tennessee one of the most heavily regulated states in the nation.
Read Justin Owen’s Economic Liberty Act testimony at bit.ly/vJr82i

Enact an economic liberty act requiring the government to prove that all new occupational regulations directly impact the health, safety, and welfare of Tennesseans.
Read Justin Owen’s Economic Liberty Act testimony at bit.ly/vJr82i

Eliminate titling acts that require Tennesseans to obtain government permission to use certain occupational titles.
Read Justin Owen’s Economic Liberty Act testimony at bit.ly/vJr82i

Allow Tennesseans to purchase wine in grocery stores, eliminating the liquor industry’s monopoly over the product.
Read “Drunk with Power” at bit.ly/18aijnL

Target methamphetamine production rather than impeding the purchase of cold medications by law-abiding citizens, and prohibit local governments from restricting such sales.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Prohibit unelected government regulatory boards from increasing occupational fees without approval by the legislature.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Eliminate the minimum wage and prohibit local “living wages” that make it more difficult for many Tennesseans to find gainful employment.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Prohibit local governments from imposing new mandates on businesses that are inconsistent with and more stringent than state law.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Government Reform

Reform asset forfeiture laws to eliminate any financial incentives for law enforcement to seize private property.
Watch “NC5 Investigates: Policing for Profit” at bit.ly/lRyTY6

Allow the private sector to assume responsibility for non-essential government services that could easily be handled outside of state government.
Contact Justin Owen at justin@beacontn.org

Prohibit local governments from using taxpayer money to lobby the state or federal government.
Read “The Dangerous Cycle of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying” at bit.ly/18ahjzU

Change the rules of the game so that the individual incentives of judges, lawyers, juries, and other legal actors motivate them to act in the larger social interest.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Enact reforms that punish the most violent criminals and provide a pathway back into society for rehabilitated offenders.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Amend the current policy that allows the Supreme Court to choose the Attorney General, thus removing the conflict of interest for selecting our state’s top lawyer.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Prohibit state and local governments from using tax dollars to fund failed experiments to provide high-speed Internet to the general public.
Read “We Need to Shine the Light on Electric Utilities” at bit.ly/1gu2SyZ

Enact a law that provides for stronger financial management systems in local governments.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 25 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Transportation

Refuse to force taxpayers to fund local mass transit projects with state taxpayer money.
Contact Lindsay Boyd at lindsay@beacontn.org

Replace the current gasoline tax with a more responsible vehicle miles traveled tax, with protections in place to prevent privacy infringements, to fund transportation infrastructure.
Read “There’s More than One Way to Pave a Road” at bit.ly/1cGpxrh

Allow private investments in infrastructure through public-private partnerships, thus increasing transportation funding and reducing the burdens on taxpayers.
Read “There’s More than One Way to Pave a Road” at bit.ly/1cGpxrh

Convert existing HOV lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, allowing unaccompanied drivers to pay a fee to use the under-utilized lanes.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 50 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Cronyism

End corporate handouts to select businesses, which allow government to pick winners and losers.
Read “Corporate Welfare Infographic” at bit.ly/16EIq67

End all special treatment of alternative energy that distorts market conditions and puts taxpayer money at risk.
Read “Legislators’ Guide to the Issues,” p. 47 at bit.ly/1ep6v8w

Eliminate financial incentives to the film industry that provide no real benefit to Tennesseans and instead send taxpayer money to Hollywood producers.
Read “Corporate Welfare Infographic” at bit.ly/16EIq67

Terminate the state’s Greenbelt Law that provides massive tax breaks to the wealthy while purporting to protect farmers.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 15 at bit.ly/17CQqty

Eliminate the costly TNInvestco program that has failed to live up to its promises of substantial job creation despite a significant cost to taxpayers.
Read “2013 Tennessee Pork Report,” p. 5 at bit.ly/17CQqty

December 3rd, 2013 | Feature, Policy

Beacon’s statement on the passage of policing for profit reforms

Statement from the Beacon Center on Passage of Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill:

The Beacon Center of Tennessee today commended the unanimous passage of legislation to limit the controversial practice of policing for profit.

The Beacon Center has called for several reforms to these laws, which allow police officers to seize Tennesseans’ property even if they have no proof that a crime has been committed. This has led to disturbing seizures of cash and other personal property on highways across Tennessee.

Sponsored by Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) and Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), HB1078/SB891 prohibits ex parte hearings when property is seized under the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Currently, court hearings to determine whether seizures were legal are conducted with only the police officer present, and often without the knowledge of the property owner.

“Policing for profit flies in the face of core constitutional principles,” said Beacon Center Director of Policy Trey Moore. “Allowing citizens who become ensnared in this questionable practice to have their day in court is a much-needed first step toward the protection of property rights.”

In March, the Beacon Center published a policy brief outlining the problems with policing for profit, offering several solutions including the one that passed the legislature this week. Read the entire brief, titled The Perils of Policing for Profit, here.

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April 17th, 2013 | Recent News

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