Jefferson City – The Missouri State Legislature passed legislation earlier this year, a 62 page bill (H.B. 577) which, in part required the Missouri Department of Insurance to "conduct a study regarding its licensing rules and other policies and procedures governing the bail bond industry".
H.B. 577 suggested the Department of Insurance hold hearings and permit testimony from representatives of law enforcement, judiciary, bail agents and surety bail bond companies. Four hearings were held with the last hearing held at the state capital on Tuesday, November 10. I attended that hearing.
Approximately 15 people sat on the panel hearing testimony, of which several were bail agents. Testimony was largely given by bail agents writing on personal assets identified in Section 374.700 of the Missouri Revised Statutes as a Property Bail Bondsmen.
The testimony from some of the property agents keyed on the low barrier of entry to becoming a General Bail Bond Agent in Missouri. Current statute allows licensed agents of two years or more to qualify as a General Bail Bond Agent upon deposit of $10,000 with the state. Bail agents can only write through a licensed General Bail Bond Agent, whether on corporate surety or personal surety.
Another issue raised was the qualification process for property writes. There was testimony some courts were not properly vetting property bondsmen and were not sufficiently securing the assets (cash, real estate or personal property) by way of deed of trust or assignment and that assets listed on financial statements were not being verified. Some courts have discontinued the qualification process all together due to a lack of resources.
I was the only surety company representative to provide testimony at this hearing. I recommended to the panel, if they intended to continue to allow for the writing of bail against personal assets, they should look to Texas and South Carolina which have refined their procedure and controls for writing bail using personal assets as collateral to a point where they are suffiicently indemnified. Both states have corporate surety bail agents as well, providing comparable circumstances to those of Missouri.
H.B. 577 requires the Department of Insurance to submit their recommendations to the house and senate insurance committees no later than January 6, 2010.
I will attend the Fall Conference of the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen in Savannah on November 16 and 17. Hope to see you there.