Bill could change distribution of drug bust money

Bill could change distribution of...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Every year, thousands of dollars are seized in drug busts in La Crosse.

Under the state's civil asset forfeiture law, that money can be split in two ways, between the agency that found it, and the state's school fund.

But that could all change.

Republican assembly representative Gary Tauchen of Bonduel, Wisconsin, co-authored a bill that would dramatically change the way money confiscated from drug busts is distributed.

The bill proposes 100 percent of the money go to schools instead of splitting it between schools and law enforcement.

West Central MEG Unit investigators say the bill may have some negative impacts if it passes.

MEG unit investigative coordinator Tom Johnson said over the past few years, they've made 20 to 25 forfeitures, varying from amounts of $900 to $20,000.

Historically, the department's task force operated on a federal grant which started in the 80's.

But that grant has been reduced over the years.

"We have to reach out to private entities and donations to keep this task force operating," Johnson said.

And now with the proposal of this bill, things could start to get complicated.

"We are in a collaborative effort with the schools particularly in our school districts in these five counties we work hand in hand with the school systems," he said.

Johnson says law enforcement is not against more school funding , but the proposal would stand in the way of the department working with schools.

"The money that comes from the investigations, go to the school fund as I said, so if those stop being forfeited or seized, then the school system is not going to get that money either."

Democratic minority leader Jennifer Shilling says funding should be adequately distributed between both schools and law enforcement.

"I'm uncomfortable with the idea of pitting law enforcement against education and schools for funding resources, and so we need to make sure that we are funding those appropriately and adequately," Shilling said.

Law enforcement uses that money for undercover vehicles,  field drug test kits,  surveillance systems, upkeep and electronic subscription services to the surveillance systems.

Under the current law, police can seize property even when its owner is not charged of a crime related to the property.


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