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Criminal Justice Reform in the States (March 14 edition): from Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, and More

Weekly legislative roundup: Arkansas narrows asset forfeiture, Iowa sidelines Marsy’s Law, and more

DES MOINES, IA – NOVEMBER 06: Incumbent Republican candidate for Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds speaks as she celebrates her re-election during Iowa’s GOP Election Night on November 6, 2018 in Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds defeated her challenger Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell in Tuesday’s midterm election. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Weekly legislative roundup: Arkansas narrows asset forfeiture, Iowa sidelines Marsy’s Law, and more

Updates drawn from the Political Report newsletter. Find out more on our legislative roundup page.

Bills to overhaul Arizona’s criminal legal system fell by the wayside as the deadline for them to get out of committee expired. One proposal that advocates had rallied around was House Bill 2270, which aimed to lower the requirement that people serve 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for release; another proposal would have enabled some people to expunge their record. While these bills and others were sponsored by Republicans, the Arizona Central and Arizona Mirror reported that they were largely blocked by Republican Representative John Allen, the chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee. The Mirror also discusses Senator Eddie Farnsworth, the GOP chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery as opponents of reform. 
The legislature has adopted Senate Bill 308, which restricts asset forfeiture to cases where an individual has actually been convicted of a felony. The conviction requirement, which also stipulates that the felony must relate “to the property being seized,” comes with exceptions, for instance if a person flees or does not show up in court. SB 308’s adoption comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that narrowed civil asset forfeiture. Both chambers passed the bill unanimously; the bill now heads to Governor Asa Hutchinson for his signature. (Update: Hutchinson signed the legislation into law on March 18, and C.J. Ciaramella wrote about its significance on Reason.)

Governor Kim Reynolds (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Marsy’s Law, a measure that seeks to enshrine a set of rights for victims in state constitutions, appears to have died for the year. It did not move out of committee by the required deadline last week, though legislative leaders can still resurrect certain measures. Marsy’s Law moved out of committee but was not called on the floor last year, and Governor Kim Reynolds made it one of her goals this year in her Condition of the speech address in January. Melissa Gira Grant reported in The Appeal in November on concerns that Marsy’s Law undermines the rights of defendants.
Also in Iowa, legislation to reinstate the death penalty became eligible for full debate in the Senate; read more in the Political Report.
New Hampshire
The House of Representatives passed legislation abolishing the death penalty, the third legislative chamber in the country to do so this year. The Political Report reviewed this and other developments relating to the death penalty this week.
New York
As Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders consider marijuana reform, they face demands from Black lawmakers that legalization include provisions to repair the disproportionate harm that prohibition has caused to people of color, the New York Times reports. Lawmakers “will oppose legalization unless people of color are guaranteed a share of the potentially $3 billion industry” through provisions like a job training program and meaningful opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. Last month, the Political Report talked to advocates in Connecticut, Illinois, and New Jersey about the measures they believe legalization must contain to promote equity.
North Dakota
Governor Doug Burgum has signed into law both of the bills the Political Report wrote about last week: One ends mandatory minimum requirements for some offenses involving drug manufacturing and dealing, and the other raises to 10 from 7 the age at which children can be referred to the juvenile justice system.