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Monday, April 2, 2007

SB153 on Senate Calendar

Senate Bill 153 has been reported out of committee and is now on the Senate calendar for perfection. The bill could be taken up for a vote at any time. If you are concerned that these provisions could adversely affect your bail bond business, please contact your senator by letter, fax, or phone call. Here is a link to find your senator. Need help composing a letter to your senator? Download this sample letter in Word format.

Here are some of the provisions of the senate committee substitute which could affect your business and the section number in the bill:

●The Department of Insurance (DIFP) retains discretion over denial of a license even if the Administrative Hearing Commission over-rules the department’s decision. Bill Section 374.051
●A person is forced to give self-incriminating testimony in any action or proceeding of the Director of Insurance. If the person refuses to incriminate himself/herself, the department can compel this testimony by filing an action in the circuit court. The person can then prosecuted for perjury or contempt for failing to give testimony which is self-incriminating.
Bill section 374.210.4
●Gives power to the director to conduct his own hearings for the suspension or revocation of a license. In lieu of filing a complaint with the Administrative Hearing Commission, the director can hold his own hearing, and may order discipline or enter into a consent order. This removes the independent third-party to hear issues related to a person’s right to earn a living. The DIFP will conduct the investigation, file the complaint, and be the hearing body for the complaint.
Bill section 374-755.2
●Bill continues to license felons in the bail business. This has been an ongoing problem with felons in the bail bond business being profiled in the Columbia Missourian, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joplin Globe, and the Columbia Tribune. Keeps the controversial 15-year felony clause passed in 2004, but adds that a license MAY be refused, revoked, etc. if an applicant has been convicted of: any dangerous felony defined by section 556.061, RSMo, any felony crime of assault, any felony crime that results in the serious physical injury or death of another person, any felony crime against the administration of justice, or any felony of which deceit or fraud is an element of the offense. Examples of felonies not included in this language would be manufacturing of meth, child pornography, drug sales, felons with firearms, and statutory sodomy of a 13 year-old.
Bill Section 374.755.1(2-3)
●The bill doubles the required certificate of deposit to become a general agent from $10,000 to $20,000 and then the DIFP can require the CD be increased to $40,000 based upon
regulation. This bill is unfair to small, family-owned companies who will be required to make the same cash deposit as a corporation employing 50 agents. Bill section 374.715.2
●The DIFP must notify the general agent of a notice of forfeiture within 48 hours of receiving notice from the courts. The language is ambiguous and does not specify if this notice is a bond forfeiture hearing or an unsatisfied judgment. Most hearings are set aside and do not result in judgment. This would be an onerous task for local courts, if this language were interpreted to include every ‘notice of forfeiture.’ Bill Section 374.707
●The Department shall include a photograph on the bail bond license. The bill does not say how this picture will be obtained or what the additional licensing cost might be.
Bill Section 374.710.1
●An agent cannot write bonds without noticing the department of the name, address and telephone number for each employer he/she works or operates as an independent contractor. The law already requires a signed affidavit stating the agent does not work for a political subdivision of the State of Missouri and the signature of an agent’s general agent. This is more ambiguous language which does not distinguish between all employers or bail bond related employment.
Bill section 374.710.5
●If a bail bond agent goes to work for a new company he/she SHALL file an affidavit with the DIFP and the new general agent, swearing “that to the best of their knowledge, there are no outstanding premiums owed at the time of the appointment.” In order to go to work for a new company, you SHALL file an affidavit saying there are no outstanding premiums owed. I think there is very little possibility an agent could swear under oath that no one owes money to the agent and/or the company. Secondly, the section does not tell to whom the money might be owed. Premium owed the agent? The former company? The new company? All of the above? Additionally, the section does not differentiate between uncollected or uncollectible premium in the form of credit extended to clients and collected premium not turned into the company. The next sentence of this section states that IF premiums are owed (this should never happen because the previous part of this section states that you shall file an affidavit saying no one owes money) and the agent does not satisfy this obligation, the former general agent MAY file notice, under oath, with supporting documentation, stating that the bail bond agent has failed to satisfy his/her obligation. Then upon receipt of this notification, the new general agent MAY cancel the authority of his/her new agent. IF the new general agent cancels the authority of the new agent, the cancellation SHALL remain in effect until all of the alleged premiums due the former general agent are paid in full. That is a lot of confusing language. This section is riddled with confusing language which shifts between the permissive word--may and mandatory word--shall.
Misappropriation of premium is already against the law. There are already remedies for a company who alleges an agent misappropriated funds. A company can file a complaint with the DIFP, file a complaint with the local prosecutor, or sue the agent for the amount due. Bill Section 374.710.6
●The bill codifies violations by levels and refers to a level two violation for violating section 374.761(b). The proplem is there is no section 374.761b. Bill section 374.780.1

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Although Missouri Bondsman encourages debate on topics of interest to the bail industry, please be aware that comments are moderated. Please observe the posting rules. No comments will be printed that contain spam, profanity, or libelous comments. Please post comments in a civil, professional manner.