Bail agents are no different than those who work in other professions. There are those who participate in the advancement, protection and preservation of their profession and then are those who go about their business. Others volunteer their time and spend their financial resources to everyone’s benefit. This is often referred to as riding coattails.
In the bail industry we see apathy at the retail level and the surety level. As I travel around the country to various state association meetings I see the same faces volunteering their time, contributing to PACs and sponsoring events which raise money for their state association. These state associations then use the money to provide continuing education classes and pay lobbyists to advocate for bail related issues. Well, these efforts taken on behalf of commercial bail benefit everyone who writes commercial bail, so one has to wonder why the lack of participation by many who benefit from these efforts?
For the last several months there has been a battle taking place in El Paso, Texas over the expansion of their taxpayer funded pretrial release agency. Commissioner Vince Perez has been having to defend his proposal against challenges by local judges and the El Paso County Bondsmen Association. Commissioner Perez says the program will save the county money but has been unable to provide any evidence to support his claim.
If plans to expand government pretrial prevails in El Paso, it will reduce the amount of bail being written. If for no other reason, Commissioner Perez will need to justify millions of dollars and additional staff required for his program. So the question is, did all bondsmen writing in El Paso County contribute to the efforts made by the El Paso Bondsmen Association through membership or donations or did some sit back while others did the fighting?
Last week I was in Austin attending the Spring Meeting of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas. Member attendance was down considerably from past meetings. Who was there were those bondsmen who continue to work free of charge, and many times at their own expense, on behalf of bondsmen all over Texas.
The trio of PBT President Scott Walstad, PBT Legislative Chair Wynn Dillard and PBT Past President John McClusky were all present and accounted for. While these guys work out of McKinney, Denton and Houston respectively, they have been spending a great deal of time in Austin at the Texas State House in recent weeks monitoring bail related legislation, meeting with legislators and working with PBT lobbyists to make sure Texas bondsmen stay in business. They have been doing this every session over the last several years at no cost to PBT or its members.
Knowing this I’m amazed when I hear membership renewals are down for PBT. Participation is down. Texas and its 254 counties is second only to Alaska in terms of size. By all rights Texas should be the largest bail association in the United States but it’s not. PBT CE classes should be the class of choice for all bondsmen in Texas. Revenue generated through these classes, taught by volunteers like expert bail attorneys Randy Adler and Ken Good, help keep you in business. So why would any Texas bondsman ever consider giving their money to a for-profit school?
The bail industry nationally is under constant assault by big-government thinkers and local governments whose only interest is generating revenue through the use of cash deposit bail. In most cases the only thing standing between a bondsman and the unemployment line is their state association. So, you have to ask yourself, is that weak excuse for not paying a few hundred dollars in membership dues worth risking being put out of business? To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, ‘you want them on that wall, you need them on that wall’. But that wall costs money and isn’t it time you paid your share? That’s a big Texas YES! Join your state association today, in whatever state you operate and tell them Mike Whitlock sent you.