Spending political capital

 

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Video's diminishing returns

Vote-hungry legislators count the house; video diminishes ‘political capital’ – according to veteran biker activist Mel Moss

Bedford, Tx – The Senator who was rag-chewing the government’s relations with folks’ billfolds and purses would qualify for the highest compliment a man can get on any car lot or in any boiler room.

When it comes to closing, this guy is not just strong; he’s in the garlic sandwich department.

Don Huffines, ultra-conservative freshman State Senator from District 16, didn’t mince words as he talked to the grizzled group of road warriors clad in colorful black leather cuts who gathered at the American Legion. He told them what they needed to hear, and what he needs to accomplish.

When it came time to mash the close button, he didn’t fool around; he slapped it so hard, fiery sparks flew.

It’s as simple as this, he said. Businesses large and small – giant and globe-straddling to mom and pop emporiums of tobacco and brew – are experiencing one growth industry and one only.

The only real hiring trend today is for the position of “compliance officer,” the person who makes dead sure the government can’t nail the outfit for what is written on some form, checked off in a dialogue box, or entered on any spread sheet.

If an outfit can’t afford to hire a professional to fill the position, then someone is spending valuable money-making time getting the job done, or trying to get the job done. 

You can go to jail, your corporation fined out of existence and into reorganization, if you’re not careful – very careful. The bigger the business, the higher the risk. Government has cast itself as the enemy of the go-getters who meet payrolls, build empires, close deals, sell securities, and use their big shoulders to play with railroads, stack wheat, butcher stock and ship it on down the line.

In the case of large banks, for instance,“For every piece of paperwork filled out wrong, that’s a separate crime,” he said. Indictments handed down in federal and state courts can go on for thousands of pages.

That’s why he wants term limits of 12 years for elected officials in the State of Texas – especially judges. Why? Sometimes, you just can’t get the Court’s attention. “The District Courts get it wrong all the time and in the appeals courts, sometimes you just can’t get a hearing…The Texas Supreme Court has waited as long as four years.”

Queue the Isley Brothers doing “Shake it Up, Baby; Twist and Shout.” Many flags unfurled; balloons fall from the sky.

Huffines is a fifth-generation Texan, scion of an automotive family with a long track record of selling motorized wagons and horseless carriages to the local gentry. His cowboy boots have dogging heels. He came to dance, and not necessarily only with those who brung him. This guy slung ink statewide in the latest biennial.

But he wasn’t there to talk to these guys about criminal violations. In only a small percentage of cases of asset forfeiture, where cops and prosecutors just haul off and seize money, motorcycles, boats, cars, houses, property, does the government allege any criminal violation whatsoever.

In fact, Huffines told the Sons of Liberty Riders, each of them politically attuned road warriors with many trips to Ostenatious under their butts, he’s fully in favor of felons who have been convicted of crimes having to forfeit their sack of marbles, the big house, the ranch and all the toys. That’s not his problem.

What he is against are the cases that are styled, “People of the State of Texas v. 2015 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle,” “People of the State of Texas v. Bushmaster AR-15 Rifle,” or “State v. $35,832.59.” That’s the nature of civil forfeiture as opposed to criminal forfeiture of assets in Texas courts. Prosecutors need not file any criminal complaint whatsoever. There is a hearing; the owner of the asset may post a bond and replevy, but if no convincing case is made, the forfeiture goes through immediately.

Period. Done deal. Happens every day. “It’s a profit center for the DA’s office,” he declared.

Huffines is a member of the Criminal Justice Committee. He sees a new day dawning in the Texas Legislature because the Legislature balkanized the state into an edgy balance of power.

“Everyone’s safe. We gerrymandered the districts when we redistricted. Republicans are safe; Democrats are safe.” They proved it in the State Senate when a coalition of Hispanics from blue districts joined whites from red districts, blacks from blue spots, and all of them, from both sides of the aisle, went against the establishment by voting and passing his amendment to the Open Carry Bill that would have nullified the right of a police officer to demand a person wearing a sidearm to show their ID and their Concealed Carry Handgun License after first carefully confiscating the handgun and detaining the individual in a roadside investigation.

Whew. Hot, ain’t it?

Huffines set a state record by holding the microphone for six and a half hours – as a freshman. In his opening remarks, he said, “They don’t like to hear you when you’re a freshman. They want you to sit in the corner and be quiet.”

Naturally, police exploded and the opposition raised hell. They said they would do it anyway and they slapped it down immediately when the bill came back across to the House of Representatives. It was a moment, and it counted.

Something clicked – somewhere. Everyone heard it.

The point remains, nothing of the sort would have ever happened only a few years in the past, or in any biennial session of the Texas Legislature in memory. The rules have changed.

Here’s the clincher. Huffines does not take his $600 a month salary, nor does he participate in the state’s pension plan for legislators, partake of expense account reimbursements – or anything else.

A professional politician he is not. No way.

How would one remedy the state of the law on civil forfeitures? It’s regulated by Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Would he seek to amend that?

I’m still studying that. I haven’t decided,” he said.

Here’s a sample of what he did say. Hear this and listen to the audio of his presentation.

The number one cause of poverty is divorce. That’s because in a divorce case, you remove one bread winner from the home. Insurance-driven regulations like the “Driver Responsibility Law,” in which a person can lose driver’s license, car, and, job, as well as his freedom over DWI and other moving violations have turned the state’s jails into “debtor’s prisons.” When Daddy can’t get to work, the family is no more.

Jail-for-Profit schemes have turned the jails into profit centers, something they were never meant to be.

The solution? Decriminalize traffic offenses. Put a 10-year limit on all offenses, including felonies – except when a person is to be vetted for law enforcement or national security positions.

As the bikers crowded in after his talk, he handed one his last copy of the U.S. Constitution, reminding his listeners that the only power that can take away their enumerated rights is the government.

Butch Moss, the leader of the pack, lamented privately the fact that he could only put about 25 “butts in the seats.” He needs upwards of 70 to make an impression.

They count the house,” he said of vote-hungry politicians. “If we video these events and post them, they say what difference does it make? Every time I do this, I’m spending political capital.”

Huffines didn’t appear to let that bother him.

As his supporters rushed in, seeking his opinion, wanting to share their hopes, he held his hands palms forward and said, “You’ve got to pick your battles.”

He said he will be entering the bruising arena again in summer of 2017, when the next election cycle begins anew. “I’m going to be doing a lot of social media. I’m going to do a lot of calls to action. I won’t do it often, but when I need you, I want you to come to the Capitol.”

It’s on.

So mote it be.

Sen. Don Huffines

Don Huffines, freshman District 16 Senator, faces re-election in 2018

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