The Alternative Bond bill SB11-186 died last night, after being assigned to House Appropriations, as the 2011 legislative session ended. The Alternative Bond, at its core, is a scheme for Colorado courts to engage in the bail bond business by collecting premiums normally paid to bail agents for posting a bail bond. Unlike the bail bond agent, the courts would have no risk of paying the full bond if a defendant was not timely rearrested after a failure to appear. This concept is taken from the old government playbook; take your money with no responsibility to perform and cloak it in a disguise of being in the interest of public safety.
SB11-186 had passed through the Senate last week by the narrowest of margins (18-17) and simply did not have sufficient time to get through the House, or did it? It is more likely that the arguments and evidence offered by the commercial bail industry was sufficient enough to erode support for SB11-186 in the House. Some House members simply could not support adding several hundred bail agents to the unemployment scrolls, while at the same time costing the state millions of dollars in annual revenues generated by the bail industry. As House Sponsor Rep. Waller testified yesterday when the bill was heard before the House Judiciary Committee, “I don’t want to see even one bail agent put out of business”.
The Alternative Bond was the brainchild of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). The CCJJ was established by the Colorado Legislature in 2007 through HB07-1358. The Mission Statement of the CCJJ is, “to enhance public safety, to ensure justice, and to ensure protection of the rights of victims through cost-effective use of public resources.”
The CCJJ is comprised entirely of public servants, with the possible exception of three at-large members which could come from the private sector. CCJJ representatives testifying in support of SB11-186 were chastised by members of the Judiciary Committee for not having invited a member of the commercial bail bond industry to participate in discussion regarding an alternative bond concept. In reading the CCJJ Bi-Laws, such an appointment may be prohibited in that any member must recuse him or herself should they have a pecuniary interest in the subject matter. Well, that pretty much leaves out the private sector in general as every taxpayer in Colorado has a financial interest in matters discussed by CCJJ.
There are 26 members of the CCJJ. Senator Morse and Representative Waller, the Senate and House sponsors of SB11-186 are both members of this commission. In addition to the 26 members of the commission there are several subcommittees i.e. Behavioral Health, Comprehensive Sentencing, Drug Policy Task Force, Legislative, etc. These committees are comprised of public servants ranging from police chiefs to various heads of probation departments. No one from the private sector, save a private defense attorney, has been included.
The commercial bail bond industry’s fight to preserve bail in Colorado was unprecedented and most importantly successful, this time. Representative Waller and members of the bail bond community agreed to work together over the next year to discuss issues relating perceived problems with the expedited release of pretrial detainees. This is a welcome opportunity because if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. We only need to be invited to participate.
Thus comes the end of a very long two months. What was it the ring announcer said after Rocky fought Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) to a draw in Rocky III? “Thank God”, (it’s over).