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One Down, One to Go

Posted June 2, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock - 0 Comments

CA AB42 Fails to Pass, SB10 Still Alive

What a night it was last evening.  Many of us were watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals on one device and the California General Assembly on another.  The Golden State Warriors won their battle against LeBron James and the Cavaliers while all of California won when AB42 failed to a pass out of the General Assembly.

AB42’s doppelganger in the Senate is SB10.  Senator Hertzberg’s SB10 passed out of the Senate earlier this week with little opposition.  The senator’s partner in bail reform Assemblyman Bonta, was not as fortunate.  Despite his efforts, Bonta’s AB42 went down late last night in a 36-37 vote.  He lost by one vote.

What a tremendous effort by the lobbying team and everyone and every organization that was involved with seeing AB42 defeated.  That said, we cannot rest on our laurels, SB10 is still alive and kicking and very much a threat.  The upside is, SB10 must travel through the same General Assembly where AB42 just met its fate. We need to continue to expand our support and opposition to SB10 in the General Assembly to ensure that SB10 does not become law.

What’s next?  SB10 has been sent over to the General Assembly for consideration where it will be assigned to committee.  SB10 is not expected to be heard in committee before June 15.

How can you help?  Continue to provide financial support to the associations working on behalf of bail and victims of crime.  Continue to inform your friends, family and associates to contact their Assembly representative and ask they oppose SB10.

You can also help by encouraging your associates to post only positive comments about the bail industry and informed statements as to why SB10 is bad for California.  Posting derogatory comments and personal attacks against supporters of SB10 is harmful to our overall efforts.  Any such postings should be deleted immediately.  Keep it clean and articulate, we already have the Constitution and common sense on our side.

The Warriors won Game 1 last night but they know it’s a seven-game series.  We can celebrate last night’s defeat of AB42 for a few hours, but SB10 still looms.  Stay positive.  We will keep you posted on further developments.  

Nevada Governor Veto's Bail Reform Bill

Posted May 29, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock - 2 Comments

Last week Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval returned AB136 unsigned, to the Speaker of The of the Nevada State Assembly.  Vetoed.  AB136 was the result of recommendations made by a Nevada Supreme Court Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release.  The committee was chaired by Justice James W. Hardesty.

Governor Sandoval wrote in his May 26, 2017 letter, “No conclusive evidence has been presented showing that the risk assessment methods proposed by AB136 are effective in determining when it may or may not be appropriate to release a criminal defendant without requiring bail.”  He went on to write, “It is not clear that the provisions of AB136 will enhance the ability of Nevada’s judges to make these determinations (bail) in a manner that balances the interests of justice and public safety.”

Nevada was the second state in the last two weeks to reject the concept of a risk assessment tool and eliminate bail schedules.  California is still considering whether the release of hundreds of thousands of pretrial defendants without bail based on an eight-question risk assessment is right for their state.  Furthermore, they are considering whether eliminating bail schedules make it easier for criminal offenders to post bail.

California legislators should give weight to the decision made by the Governor of Nevada and vote against its bail reform measures, SB10 and AB42.  Leave bail decisions to the discretion of judges and leave the task of ensuring defendants appear for trial to experienced and surety back bail agents.  A civilian with a clip board and eight questions is not suitable to make decisions on whether someone will appear for court.  A preset and fair bail schedule allows those who can post bail to do so expeditiously and get back to work and family while preparing for trial.  Those who cannot afford bail should have the ability to request a bail hearing before a judge within 72 hours of arrest.

The California Senate will probably hear SB10 on the floor this week.  Last Friday, Senate President Kevin De Leon, this past Friday, said the Senate aims to hear 80 bills on Tuesday and 100 bills on Wednesday.  AB42 passed out of Appropriations Committee and is likely headed to the floor of the General Assembly this week, as well.

More and more legislators across the country are figuring out that the concept of a “risk assessment” tool is not some miracle cure.  It’s simply a marketing tool to expand government pre-trial release programs and eliminate the commercial bail industry. 

The rejection of these criminal welfare efforts in places like Nevada, Texas and Connecticut does not bode well for Senator Hertzberg and Assemblyman Bonta who have demonstrated an unwillingness to negotiate on their respective measures.  They have made it known, their concerns lie with the interests of criminal offenders and not California’s crime victims and law-abiding citizens.

Nevada Governor Sandoval made it quite clear in his Veto letter, there is “no conclusive evidence” risk assessment methods work.  Let’s hope California legislators get the message.

SB-10 Clears Appropriations

Posted May 26, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock - 5 Comments

It wasn’t an hour after SB-10 cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday on a 5-2 vote, I began getting phone calls from California bail agents.  Is this it, are we done?  Are we out of business?  No, we’re not done and we’re not out of business.  While California bail agents and surety companies operating in the Golden State do have a huge fight on our hands, we can prevail.

Proponents of these two criminal welfare bills SB-10 and AB-42 are probably feeling good today, their side advanced the ball.  There are still many plays left before either of these two measures can cross the goal line and become law. There is an adage in legislative circles, it’s easier to kill a bill than to pass one.  Our aim and the aim of many other stakeholders within California’s criminal justice system is to kill these toxic measures.

I wrote an article a couple days ago about Texas and how their legislature has elected to not perpetuate the desire by some to eliminate the idea of holding criminals accountable for their actions, to not reward bad behavior.  Texas bail agents just went through a process California bail agents are going through now, fighting legislation that could put the bail industry out of business.

Ten weeks ago Texas bail agents were very concerned they were finished.  Rather than sit back and whine and fret, they took substantive action to protect their place in the criminal justice system.   They contacted their legislators, contributed to PBT or other entities acting on their behalf and went to Austin when directed.   They fought and fought hard.  Assuming an Acme anvil doesn’t fall from the sky before the Texas legislator concludes today, they will have won their fight.  California bail agents must show similar resolve.

It is projected both SB-10 and AB-42 will be voted out of the Senate and Assembly respectively by the end of next week.  Both bills will then be sent to the opposite chamber where they must start the process over again; i.e., committee hearings, etc.  Every California bail agent must join the fight if this battle is to be won.  Contact CBAA, GSBAA or ABC to see how you can contribute.  Financial contributions are as important as your relationship to your local legislature and your ability to travel to Sacramento at a moment’s notice.

These legislative fights always seem daunting and unbeatable.  The legislators have the bully pulpit and seem to have everyone listening and believing every word uttered.  The reality is not every legislator is in agreement and those are the folks we need to reach.  The advocacy team assembled by the bail industry has been doing a remarkable job in Sacramento.  They’ve been successful in getting legislators to see the other side of the argument, the true facts.  Legislators are beginning to listen.

What can you do today?  Call your senator and assembly representative and ask them to vote no to SB-10 and AB-42.  Call your surety company to make sure they are engaged and participating in this fight.  Next, contact one of the agent or surety organizations and make a financial contribution.  How much is it worth to you to stay in business?

While the fight is far from over, the only way to win the battle is to fight the battle.  

TX Legislators Deny SB 1338 - Preserve Accountability

Posted May 24, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock - 1 Comment

 The 85th Texas Legislature is nearing its long-awaited conclusion. By all accounts that state’s long running bail system remains fully intact after a withering assault this session.  This legislature will be fallow in 2018 providing PBT’s Legislative Committee time to recoup after what could only be described as heroic efforts to fend off adverse legislation and keep Texas bail agents in business.

It was ten long weeks ago on March 6, when Sen. Whitmire filed his bill, SB 1338.  The toxic measure was aimed at providing welfare to criminals, marginalizing the rights of victims and killing an entire industry.  In the months’ prior PBT was already alerting its members of Sen. Whitmire’s intention to file a bill that had the real potential to put them out of business.

The Professional Bondsmen of Texas has always had a legislative committee that is engaged, prepared and proactive.  In recent years’ this committee has been led by North Dallas bondsman Scott Walstad. The committee members practically move to Austin during session spending long days at the State Capital.  They volunteer their time to the detriment of their own businesses and rarely if ever are reimbursed for their expenses much less their time.

ABC worked closely with PBT over the past many weeks providing support where requested.  Sen. Whitmire’s bill was initially stalled in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee after receiving intense opposition from the bail industry.  The bill ultimately made it out of committee only after the author cut his 30-page bill down to 10. What remained was still a threat to the bail industry.
SB 1338 eventually cleared the Senate and was sent to the House where the clock was ticking for the bill to get out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.  The bill made it out of that committee but suffered a procedural fate and SB 1338 effectively died.

But, where the legislative process is concerned, like a possum, death is but an illusion.  The language in SB 1338 could still be added to another bill in the form of an amendment.  The PBT legislative team kept its focus until it was determined all strategic options to pass the language contained in SB 1338 had been exhausted.

Thank you PBT, ABC and those Texas bail agents working independently but pulling in the same direction during this session. It’s times like these the tenacity and intestinal fortitude of bail agents shine through.  While things can look bleak at the start of a legislative session, it’s never over until it’s over.  If you write bail in Texas I encourage you to support PBT as they really came through for you this year.

California Bail Agents Answer the Call

Posted April 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM by Michael J. Whitlock - 0 Comments

Truckee, CA bail agent Leeann Curtis with Mike outside

the State Capitol.

Sacramento, CA - The call went out to all California bail agents to come to Sacramento to show support for their profession and oh did the heed the call. Room 126 of the State Capitol was filled to capacity with bail agents as was the corridor outside.  If you were not a bail agent you were claiming to be one just to be part of the crowd.

Assembly Bill 42 was first up on the agenda Tuesday morning at he  Public Safety Committee hearing.  Assemblymen Bonta is the author of this sister measure to Senate Bill 10, whose author is Senator Hertzberg, also in attendance.  Bonta and Hertzberg introduced the bill with wonderful facts and figures that would impress anyone not familiar with how the bail system works.  Unfortunately for them, those folks were in the minority on this day.
Representatives of the bail industry provided opposition testimony pointing out major concerns with AB 42.  The government pretrial release program would cost California taxpayers as much as $3.5 billion a year and cause tremendous jail crowding as offenders who would typically post bail soon after arrest, would wait days for a risk assessment before bail their bail is determined.  Nina Salerno of Crimes Victims United spoke emphatically about how AB 42 totally disregards crime victims.
Following testimony, the committee chair held an open mic for anyone wishing to speak in opposition to AB 42.  Be careful what you ask for.  Bail agents stepped forward one by one for twenty minutes to voice their opposition and they kept coming until everyone had their say.  What the committee and the bill authors saw was a diverse group of men and women from throughout the entire State of California who were very passionate about their profession and their role within the criminal justice system.  Duane Chapman was also present and took a few questions about fugitive recovery. 
AB 42 was voted out of the Public Safety Committee with one Democrat abstaining after voicing her concerns and two Republicans voting no.  The committee chair also voiced his concerns for the bill as currently written.
After 35 years in this business I guess I'm getting a little soft. I get little gushy when I see the huge turnout of bail agents like we had at the State Capitol on Tuesday.  The agent associations, surety associations and large retailers have put together an A-Team of legislative advocates who are doing an excellent job assisting us to inform legislators about the pit falls of this overreaching legislation. There is still work to be done and it is the hope of everyone that the next call to the Capitol will bring three times the bail agents.  We will keep you posted.