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Provisions Permitting Commerical Bail Included in Final Version of Wisconsin Budget Bill

Wednesday, June 26, 2013  

The Wisconsin budget bill, AB 40, has passed the legislature and has been sent to the Governor. As amended and enrolled, the bill would authorize the establishment of a pilot program for commercial bail bonds. The bill would permit commercial bail on a limited basis with a statewide implementation in five years. The bill would permit bail bond agents, bail bond agencies, and bail recovery agents in an action brought in Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties. The bill would establish licensing and credentialing requirements in the Department of Safety and Professional Services (Department) for bail bond agents, bail bond agencies, and bail recovery agents, and it would allow a licensed bail bond agent or bail bond agency to act as a surety under current law provisions related to bail and other conditions of release.

Licensed bail bond agents or licensed bail bond agencies would be permitted to be compensated at a rate of 10% of the amount of the bail bond set. Bail bond agents and agencies would be required to pay a filing fee equal to three percent of the bail bond amount to a court at the time that a bail bond is posted with that court. Bail bonds would have to be issued by a surety company authorized to do business in Wisconsin.

The bill would direct the Department to establish education, training, and examination requirements establish by rule. The bill also would outline the Department’s administrative responsibilities for agent licensing. Agents would be required to furnish a bond or liability policy in connection with licensure. The amount required would be determined by rule. The bill would outline penalties for violations of the proposed law. The bill would authorize the Department to create an advisory committee on the regulation of bail agents.

The program would be in place for five years. The Department would be authorized to adopt rules to implement the bill’s provisions, and it could adopt emergency rules if deemed necessary. The bill would require the clerks of court in Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties to provide certain information to the Director of State Courts concerning the use of bail bonds. The bill also would require the Director of State Courts to submit to the chief clerk of each house of the Legislature, for distribution to the Legislature under current law procedures, a report summarizing the reports prepared by the clerks of courts in Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha Counties. The report would be due no later than four years and four months after the effective date of the bill.

The budget bill traditionally is difficult to amend once it has been passed by the Joint Finance Committee. Historically, there has been strong opposition to a commercial bail system in Wisconsin, but the budget bill was subject to an up or down vote in both chambers, meaning that the budget bill would have had to start over if the bill did not pass. This year’s budget bill passed with a contentious debate in the legislature over several issues, including attempts to remove the bail bond provisions through a Senate floor amendment. The amendment to remove the bail bond provisions was tabled in the Senate in close vote of 17-16. Ultimately, the bail bond provisions survived, and the bill has been sent to the Governor. However, Governor Walker has the authority to veto portions of the budget bill while approving others. The Governor previously used this authority to veto bail bond provisions in the budget bill two years ago, citing a lack of time to study the issue. There is pressure for the Governor to veto the bail provisions again from the law enforcement community. SFAA will continue to keep its members apprised of this issue. Forty-six other states currently permit the use of commercial bail.

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