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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20150&cosponId=17363
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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: February 10, 2015 03:03 PM
From: Representative Angel Cruz
To: All House members
Subject: Philadelphia Civil Forfeitures and funding for the Philadelphia School District (Former HB 2535)
 
In the near future, I will reintroduce legislation to address a conflict of interest in our civil forfeiture law and increase funding for the struggling Philadelphia School District.

You may have seen recent news reports about a Philadelphia couple who lost their home as a result of Pennsylvania’s controversial civil forfeiture law. In March 2014, their child was arrested for selling drugs outside of their home. Under the protection of our civil forfeiture law, the Philadelphia police evicted the family and seized their house, though the property owners are not accused of any wrongdoing.

In cities such as Philadelphia, the civil forfeiture program has been successful in depriving drug traffickers of cash, cars and other fruits of their crimes. According to the Institute for Justice, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has converted real and personal property into a $5.8 million average annual stream of revenue. Between 2002 and 2012, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office seized and forfeited over 3,000 vehicles, nearly 1,200 homes and other real estate properties and $44 million in cash. Altogether, Philadelphia has generated a staggering $64 million in forfeiture proceeds, a portion of which is used to pay the salaries of the prosecutors who have a case to prove against families such as the one mentioned above. I believe this creates both a conflict of interest and an incentive for the DA's office to seize property.

My legislation would resolve this issue by simply redirecting all of Philadelphia's controlled substance civil forfeiture proceeds to the Philadelphia School District. My bill establishes the “First Class School Districts Fund” to be used for no other purpose than to fund the Philadelphia School District. For accountability purposes, the General Assembly and the School Reform Commission would receive a detailed annual report of the expenditure of money received by the School District from the Fund.

My bill will allow our police officers to fight crimes such as drug trafficking, while also creating a fair process for Philadelphia property owners, and finally also providing for our very desperate and struggling Philadelphia School District.

I ask that you join me in making this simple, but crucial, change to our law by co-sponsoring my bill. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my Harrisburg office at 717-705-1925

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Introduced as HB531