Asset Forfeiture Bill For Elk Grove Dies in California Assembly Public Safety Committee; Audio Included

April 17, 2018 |

Legislation that would have granted the City of Elk Grove special powers not given to other California municipalities was effectively killed in the California Assembly committee this morning.

The proposed law, Assembly Bill 3208 was sponsored by Assemblymember Jim Cooper, who represents the states 9th Assembly District, which includes all of Elk Grove. The bill was heard in the Assembly's Public Safety Committee (Cooper's entire testimony can be heard below).

After hearing testimony from Cooper, supporters of the bill and several opponents, the five committee members did not make a motion to vote on the legislation thereby holding it in committee. The move effectively prevents the bill from further legislative consideration.

Had the bill advanced and eventually enacted, it would have allowed Elk Grove to seize property confiscated in the city's ongoing battle against illegal marijuana grow houses. Cooper, along with Elk Grove Police Captain Timothy Allbright said in their testimony that Elk Grove is one of the national epicenters of illegal marijuana growing operation with police estimating over 1,000 grow houses are in operation in Elk Grove and Sacramento.

"According to statistics from the US DEA, California was a hot spot for illegal indoor grows in 2016, with police seizing 312,000 representing 75-percent of all plants taken by law enforcement across the U-S," Cooper told the committee members. "And I'll repeat myself, that was representing 75-percent of all plant grown indoors [nationally], taken by law enforcement, were taken here, in Sacramento and Elk Grove."     

Supporting Cooper was Albright who said ever since the city established their police department, battling grow operations has been an ongoing battle. In spite of their efforts, Allbright noted the grow houses continue to appear "on new residential streets" and are part of a worldwide crime syndicate. 

"We are experiencing sophisticated international criminal enterprise engaging in large-scale illegal marijuana grows," Allbright said. "And then exporting that yield across the United States." 

An array of groups spoke in opposition to the bill ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union and National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws to the California Land Title Association. The comments cited past abuses of the civil forfeitures laws by law enforcement agencies and the existence of Federal forfeiture laws.

"This bill seeks to circumvent the critical due process the legislator put in place less than two years ago when it passed SB 443," Mica Doctoroff, of the ACLU said. "Instead this bill breathes new life into civil asset forfeiture. a remnant  of the failed war on drugs." 

In his rebuttal, Cooper attempted to frame the proposed legislation as a civil rights issue noting that several of the Sacramento grow houses are in District 6, which he said is home to a population of "people of color" who are adversely affected by the illegal activities.  

"So these folks can set up here say whatever they want, and they are against everything, but you don't live in this neighborhoods, are not persons of color, it doesn't affect you," Cooper said. "And the homeowner here talked about it, an African-American lady, it's her neighborhood, predominately African American, and they deal with it day-in, day-out; they don't drive home to some rich neighborhood and sit there, so that's my big issue with it." 

After hearing the testimony Committee Chair Reginald Bryon Jones-Sawyer (D - Los Angeles) asked if any of the present committee members would make a motion to support passage of the legislation. After no member acted, the bill will be held in committee, which killed its advancement. 

Cooper's office did not respond to an email inquiry seeking comment on the bill.  

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