Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Briefs From the State Capitol

State lawmakers are considering legislation that would transfer oversight of the state's troubled bail bondsmen system from the Insurance Department to the Public Safety Department.

The bill, discussed Monday at a public hearing, would also subject bail bondsmen to testing and routine training, and allow the public safety commissioner to suspend or revoke their licenses if they commit misconduct.

Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, said multiple federal indictments of New Haven bail bondsmen and city police officers involved in a bribery scheme point to the need for reforms this session.

There's also evidence that some bail bondsmen are illegally undercutting one another to attract business, allowing some dangerous criminals to pay little to no bail before getting out on the streets.

"This could have been prevented with the right oversight," said Lawlor, who expects more indictments. "It would not have gotten out of control."

Lawlor said the Public Safety Department, which oversees the state police, is better equipped to oversee the bail bondsmen than the Insurance Department, which typically handles various insurance matters.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell supports reform of the system, her spokesman said.

"The need for bail bonds reform is not new," said Christopher Cooper. "The bills have been put forth in each of the last several years, but never did get passed out of committee. What would be new would be legislative action on the issue."

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