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Sureties, CO Bail Agents Unite to Fight Alternative Bond Legislation

Denver, Colorado – Room 356 on the third floor of austere Colorado State Capitol proved too small for the throngs of bail bond agents attending the Senate Hearing on SB11-186. The committee chair was left no choice but to move, what would be a two and half hour hearing, to the “Old Supreme Court Chambers”
 
This past Monday SB11-186 was introduced after the filing deadline through the use of a procedure maneuver. SB11-186 would create an alternative bond with a  self-funding mechanism for the expansion of an already self-righteous, rights bludgeoning pretrial services agency. Funding would come through the implementation of a deposit requirement of which pretrial services could require a deposit of up to 15%. Of the amount deposited, pretrial services would retain 50% of the deposit while the remaining 50% of the deposit would be applied to fines and costs upon conviction.
 
 
 
Once alerted to SB11-186, the Colorado bail community came together quickly, holding several meetings on Tuesday to develop a strategy and coordinate testimony on how to derail SB11-186. 
 
I was fortunate enough to be in the area and attend these meetings on behalf of American Surety Company and as a representative of the American Bail Coalition (ABC).  Earlier on Tuesday, ABC had retained the services of a lobbyist to represent the interest of the surety companies and their bail bond agents doing business in Colorado.
 
A large of number of bail bond agents answered the call and turned out for the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing held Wednesday afternoon. Testimony came from Dave Hyatt of Pioneer, six bail agents and myself. Also testifying was attorney L. Jay Labe, chair of the Colorado Bail Round Table.
 
Opposition testimony centered on the job killing, revenue killing impact SB11-186 would have on the bail industry and the State of Colorado. Those in favor of the measure said the proposed Alternative Bond is just another option for the judge to consider when releasing a defendant. Harmless. What was not said was pretrial services employees were in a unique position to influence a judge into routinely requiring the Alternative Bond and release through pretrial services thus slowly eradicating commercial bail and putting hundreds of bail agents out of work and thousands of failure to appear warrants on the books.
 
In the end, the prospect of losing more than $500,000 in annual premium taxes to the state general fund was enough for the committee to send SB11-186 to the appropriations committee where the fiscal impact of passing SB11-186 can be considered.
 
While SB11-186 is not dead it has been delayed. Any bill that is deemed to be fiscally negative (will cost the state money) has little chance of passing in these cash strapped days of budget deficits.
 
I’m a huge fan of the hard working bail bond agent and I was very impressed with how bail agents and surety companies worked together in a very short period of time to protect the commercial bail industry in Colorado. This spirit must continue if we are to ultimately defeat this legislation, which is not only bad for the bail industry but bad for Colorado.