It was one of those three week stretches that had me in five states, thirteen airplanes, four hotels and four rental cars covering 10,000 nautical miles. During this period was a combination of meetings with new bail bond agents, visiting with existing American Surety Company (ASC) bail agents and participating in meetings involving the expansion of commercial bail.
California and Nevada
My first stop was Las Vegas where it was 105 degrees in the shade. I met with a new bail bonds agent for ASC before making a three hour drive to Riverside, California where I met with ASC agents in that market. I made it back to Las Vegas that evening.
Fortunately, Nevada’s legislature is in the off season making it one less state to worry about, for now. The California General Assembly however is going at full steam. Assembly Bill 1369, is the primary focus of the commercial bail industry in that state, which would allow defendants still in custody after sixty days (thirty days for misdemeanors) to apply for release on an electronic monitor. The two California bail agent associations, CBAA and GSBAA, continue to work closely with Assemblyman Curt Hagman to prevent the passing of any legislation adverse to bail.
Louisiana and Mississippi
Next, it was down to the Gulf Coast where I met with a longtime bail agent who will begin writing for ASC in Southern Mississippi. She was confident all bail agents will be writing on insurance within three years. Current law allows an individual to write on a ratio of cash with a minimum deposit of $30,000.
The Magnolia State recently passed H.B. 900 April 1. This bill, effective July 1, 2010, contains several changes impacting both bail agents and sureties. H.B. 900 will 1) prohibit a bail agent from writing bonds in a county where they are related to someone who works in a official capacity where bailable defendants are housed, 2) bail agents must submit a full set of fingerprints with an application for bail license for the purpose of conducting a criminal background search, 3) states the purpose of bail is for appearance only and cannot be forfeited for any other reason, 4) the clerk must mail notice of forfeiture to surety within ten working days or forfeiture is set aside, 5) require witness protection agencies to notify the court when a defendant has entered their program, providing grounds for set aside of forfeiture 6) provide for revocation of bail license if final judgments are not timely satisfied and 7) provides for the full remission of a bond, less costs, if the defendant is surrendered or detained in another jurisdiction within twelve months of final forfeiture. H.B. 900, all in all, is a fair piece of legislation.
My two day trip to the Gulf Coast also put me in New Orleans amid the BP Oil Leak Disaster and an amazing lightening show and downpour that temporarily flooded the streets of downtown.
The Association of Louisiana Bail Underwriters (ALBU) has been as busy as any bail association in America. ALBU President Guy Ruggiero circulates regular legislative updates. His most recent update brought to our attention several bills which have been enacted this session. SB 120 , which becomes effective 8/15/10, increases the minimum premium rate on bail bonds from $60 to $120; SB 685 makes bail jumping a crime carrying a sentence of 1-3 years and a $2,000 fine; HB 554 prohibits offenders charged with domestic abuse battery from being released on their own recognizance and HB 1047, which creates the Bail Bond Apprentice Program, was sent to Governor Jindal June 18 for signature. When the apprentice program becomes law, new licensees will be required to work for a licensed agent for a period of six months before becoming eligible to obtain a full license.
Oregon and (back to) California
Efforts continue to reintroduce commercial bail to Oregon. This state has been be using a combination of deposit bail, release on own recognizance and pretrial service for more than 35 years. The current system has not been effective which is why commercial bail is being considered.
ASC is a member of the American Bail Coalition (ABC). It was in this capacity I travelled to Portland where I joined Brian Nairin of AIA and fellow ABC member, ABC Executive Director Dennis Bartlett and ABC legislative advocate Paul Romain in a working group involving legislators and various state agencies in a continued effort to allay any concerns about reintroducing commercial bail.
The Oregon legislature will reconvene next January where commercial bail legislation will be considered. Reinstating commercial bail to Oregon and permitting fugitive recovery in that state will have a dramatic impact on public safety and victims’ rights by reducing the number of failures to appear and returning fugitives. ABC is comprised of twelve member companies all of whom have the best interest of the commercial bail industry at heart. Continued cooperation among the majority of commercial bail underwriters on the legislative front gives the bail industry the best chance at success.
I finished my most recent road trip with a stop in California, this time in the northern part of the state where I met with ASC agents in Sacramento and Fairfield before returning to Indianapolis.
Colorado is brimming with activity related to the ballot initiative that would limit release through pretrial services. The bail laws are also due to sunset in 2012. That state is seeing a significant increase in bail agent participation largely due to the efforts of the American Preservation of Bail, a newly formed organization whose focus is to advocate for bail agents in the fight to preserve commercial bail. ASC recently became a member, as we are in support of any efforts working in the best interest of commercial bail.
Mark Your Calendar
The PBUS Mid-Year Meeting is just around the corner. The summer meeting will be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago July 22-24. I’m personally delighted about this venue as it’s only a short drive from Indianapolis, my home base.
Don’t forget about the 21st Annual Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament, benefiting Camp Esperanza and brought to you by the Professional Bondsmen of Texas, being held August 4. This year’s event is shaping up to be our best ever.
Enjoy your summer and please share your thoughts on any of these issues by clicking on comment at the top of my blog.