Alabama Legislative actions on coastal insurance

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The current status of all House and Senate Bills can be tracked at Alabama Legislative Information System Online.

On the opening page, check top left hand tab for Session selected; to change session, click on tab, select desired session, and click set. Click Bills and then click Status.  This will take you to a page where you can enter the bill number.  After you type in the bill number, click Get Status.  The next page you see will give you a summary of status.  Click on the bill number.  Then the top bar will flash (a maroon color).  Click on View, a window will pop up and you can read the bill.

Original Post

LIST OF BILLS TO REFORM HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE INTRODUCED BY LOCAL LEGISLATORS IN 2012

HB123 – Wren - Property/Casualty Flex-Rating Market Competitiveness Act. Status: (3/2/2012) Pending Committee Action in House.
Under existing law, a rate filing made by an insurer of personal lines insurance written on risks in this state that provides for an overall statewide rate increase or decrease takes effect upon approval by the Commissioner of Insurance. This bill would provide that such a rate filing may take effect the date it is filed. This bill would provide that a filing submitted pursuant to this act shall be considered in compliance with state law unless the Commissioner of the Department Insurance determines that the filing is unreasonably high, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory.

HB166 – McMillan – Homeowners Bill of Rights.
Status: (3/2/2012) Pending Committee Action in House.
This bill would provide for the Alabama Homeowners Bill of Rights Act. This bill would require insurance carriers to provide to homeowner policyholders an outline of policy coverage and a standard checklist of policy contents at the time of sale and annually thereafter; provide specific rights of policyholders regarding pricing, advertising, financial assurances, readable policies, balanced regulation by the Department of Insurance, inquiring about the licensing status of insurance personnel, cancellation rights, timely claim payment, the receiving of copies of certain reports relating to claim estimates, filing complaints, fair treatment, and rejection of settlement offers. This bill would specify that the act does not create a civil cause of action, and to provide that violations of this act shall be punishable as a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act. Amendment 621 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 111.05 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, prohibits a general law whose purpose or effect would be to require a new or increased expenditure of local funds from becoming effective with regard to a local governmental entity without enactment by a 2/3 vote unless: it comes within one of a number of specified exceptions; it is approved by the affected entity; or the Legislature appropriates funds, or provides a local source of revenue, to the entity for the purpose. The purpose or effect of this bill would be to require a new or increased expenditure of local funds within the meaning of the amendment. However, the bill does not require approval of a local governmental entity or enactment by a 2/3 vote to become effective because it comes within one of the specified exceptions contained in the amendment.

HB189 - Hill - Insurance
Status (3/6/2012) Passed by House of Origin
Insurance, domestic insurers, investments of, prohibited activities with certain exceptions, financial institutions authorized in the state in lieu of assets, except deposits for outside of state, removing or concealing assets or records, prohibited, using custodial arrangements for holding securities, prohibited, investment activities further regulated, Secs. 27-27-26, 27-27-29, 27-41-5, 27-41-27 am'd

HB323 – McMillan – Insurance Fraud
Status: (3/2/2012) Pending Committee Action in House.
This bill would specifically define insurance fraud by a person, an insurer, a reinsurer, a broker, or their respective agents. This bill would authorize the Department of Insurance to investigate suspected insurance fraud and would also allow the reporting to certain public officers of suspected insurance fraud.

HB457 - McMillan - Income Tax
Status (3/1/2012) Pending Committee Action in House of Origin
Taxation, income tax deduction for state sales tax paid on tangible personal property used to retrofit residence of taxpayer, Secs. 40-18-15.4, 40-18-15.5 repealed

HB458 – McMillan – Incentive to Write Policies For Counties Contiguous to Mobile Bay
Status: (3/2/2012) Introduced 3/1/2012 Pending Committee Action in House: This bill would provide an incentive to private homeowner insurance carriers to encourage them to write homeowners policies in certain geographic areas covered by the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association. This bill would provide for credits against insurance premium taxes for private property insurance carriers who write homeowners insurance policies which include wind coverage in the counties of Alabama which are contiguous to the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, but only where at the time of the writing of the private policies the property was insured under the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association, in an amount of 20 percent of the insurance premium tax otherwise due in Zone 4, and 35 percent of the insurance premium tax otherwise due in Zones 1, 2, and 3.

HB460 - Hill -  Insurance
Status (3/14/2012) Read Second Time in House of Origin
Insurance, title insurance agents, qualifications and procedures for licensing, written examination, continuing education requirements, Commissioner of Insurance promulate rules, exceptions, Secs. 27-25-3, 27-25-4 am'd; Secs. 27-25-4.1, 27-25-4.2, 27-25-4.3, 27-25-4.4, 27-25-4.5, 27-25-4.6, 27-25-4.7, 27-25-4.8 added

HB470 – Davis – Incentive to Remove Wind Policies From AL Insurance Underwriters Association.
Status: Pending Committee Action (Introduced 3/1/2012) This bill would allow any domestic insurer who signs an agreement with the state to remove wind policies from the Alabama Insurance Underwriters Association (AIUA) to be eligible for $2,500,000 in economic incentives from the state and would provide for exceptions.

HB510 - McMillan - Insurance Department
Status (3/8/2012) Pending Committee Action in House of Origin
Insurance Department, adjusters, public adjusters licensed and regulated, adjustment of claims on behalf of insured party, license fees, Sec. 27-4-2 am'd.

New HB567 – Hill – Casualty Insurance Companies Capital Requirements
Status (3/23/2012) Pending Committee Action in House
Under existing law, an insurer is required to maintain certain minimal levels of unimpaired capital to be authorized to transact business in this state and is required to meet certain other requirements based on the amount of risk taken. A life and health insurer is subject to a company action level event when the risk-based capital report indicates certain levels. This bill would also subject property and casualty insurers to a company action level event when the risk-based capital report indicates certain specified levels. The bill would also correct an error in citation and make clarifying nonsubstantive changes

SB210 – Pittman - Property Insurance Clarity Act - Status (3/2/2012) Read the Second time in Senate.
HB350 – Faust – House Companion Pending Committee Action in House This bill would create the Property Insurance Clarity Act.
Read more about these bills.

SB 227 – Brooks – Catastrophic Savings Account
Status: (3/2/2012) Read the Second time in Senate.
HB 456 – Davis : House Companion Introduced 3/1/2012)
This bill would provide further for insurance for residential property and damage caused from a catastrophic windstorm event. This bill would establish a catastrophe savings account to cover an insurance deductible and other uninsured portions of risk of loss for residential property from a catastrophic windstorm event. This bill would allow taxpayers to claim a deduction against their state income tax for deposits made into the catastrophe savings account.

SB228 – Brooks - Homeowner’s Insurance Cost Transparency Act
Status (3/2/2012) Pending Committee Action in Senate. Currently homeowner's insurance carriers are required to mail a complete policy to their insureds on the annual renewal date of the policy. This bill would provide for the "Homeowner’s Insurance Cost Transparency Act." The bill would require each insurance carrier of a homeowner's policy to include with each annual renewal package a clear written disclosure of the costs of each type of individual coverage provided in the policy. The costs would be expressed in both the cost for each $1,000 of coverage, and the actual total cost of each coverage provided in the policy.

SB229 – Brooks – Rate filings public information
Status (3/2/2012) Read the Second Time in Senate.
This bill would require all rate filings and related actuarial information for homeowner’s insurance coverage in Alabama to be treated as public information, be available for review in the office of the Commissioner of Insurance in Montgomery, Alabama, and be available via the Internet on the website of the Department of Insurance and would provide for certain limited exceptions regarding confidential information.

SB230 – Brooks - Underwriting Incentive
Status (3/2/2012) Read the Second Time in the Senate.
This bill would provide an incentive to private homeowner insurance carriers to encourage them to write homeowners policies in certain geographic areas covered by the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association. This bill would provide for credits against insurance premium taxes for private property insurance carriers who write homeowners insurance policies which include wind coverage in the counties of Alabama which are contiguous to the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, but only where at the time of the writing of the private policies the property was insured under the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association, in an amount of 20 percent of the insurance premium tax otherwise due in Zone 4, and 35 percent of the insurance premium tax otherwise due in Zones 1, 2, and 3.

SB231 – Brooks - Insurers clearly notify their insureds
Status (3/2/2012) – Pending Committee Action in Senate.
This bill would require property insurers to clearly notify their insureds at the application process and at renewal of the range of premium discounts, credits, differentials, reduced deductibles, or other policy savings available on properties having fixtures or construction techniques demonstrated to help reduce windstorm damage. Insurers of commercial properties would be required to notify applicants and policyholders that a premium reduction may be available if steps have been taken to reduce windstorm damage, and to contact the agent for further information.

SB232 – Brooks – Prohibit the Application of a hurricane deductible
Status (3/2/2012) – Pending Committee Action in Senate.
This bill would prohibit the application of a hurricane deductible for property damage in insurance policies unless the damage arose from a named hurricane or tropical storm, would require any personal lines insurance policy offering a percentage deductible for the peril of winds and hail to offer a voluntary buy-back provision, and would provide penalties for violations.

SB281 – Brooks – AL Insurance Underwriting Association Coastal Area Defined
Status (3/2/2012) Pending Committee Action in Senate.
The insurance plan known as the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association and its articles of agreement, plan of operation, and rules and procedures are set out in Section 27-1-24, Code of Alabama 1975. This bill would provide that the Coastal Area of the state would consist of Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4 as designated by the association. The bill would provide for credit for voluntary insurance writings in the Coastal Area on the basis of two units, Unit One and Unit Two. Unit One would consist of Coastal Area Zones 1, 2, and 3. Unit Two would consist of Coastal Area Zone 4. Credit would be calculated separately for each unit on the basis of 100 percent for fire insurance policies, 75 percent for home owners and mobile home owner’s policies, and 50 percent for commercial multi-perils policies.

New SB454 – Pittman – Property Insurance Clarity Act (See also SB210)
Status (3/23/2012) Pending Committee Action in Senate
This bill would create the Property Insurance Clarity Act. This bill would require insurance companies authorized to transact homeowners insurance business in the state to provide policy and premium information to the Department of Insurance. This bill would require the department to provide, on the department website, aggregate information for homeowners insurance policies pertaining to the number of policies written, the direct earned premiums, and the direct incurred losses representing the total of every insurance company doing business in Alabama. This bill would also require the department to post on the department website a comprehensive description of the rate making methodology used by the department for homeowners properties risk and other related data.

Updated 3/25/2012

LIST OF BILLS TO REFORM HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE SPONSORED BY LOCAL LEGISLATORS SINCE 2007

Click here to see a list of all the bills sponsored or introduced by our local senators and representatives, Brooks, Pittman, Faust & McMillan.  The majority of these bills never made it out of committee, blocked by upstate legislators, especially Democrats, and heavy lobbying by the insurance industry.

Posted 11/16/2011

NEW UPDATE TO CLARITY BILL

At some point soon, HHII will have to make an official presentation of their recommended solutions to the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission though its representative, Michelle Kurtz.  One of these solutions will be the Clarity Bill, introduced at the last session by Senator Ben Brooks as SB2. 

Since then, HHII has given additional thought to the wording of this Bill.  One significant change is the addition of a sentence which says, in essence, that the historical data the bill produces must be used by the Alabama Department of Insurance to enforce premium fairness statewide. 

Please read the updated bill  and leave your comments on the HHII Discussion Forum.

Updated 11/1/2011

PROPERTY INSURANCE CLARITY BILL (SB2 2011)

Text, status, and comments about this Bill, which HHII strongly supports, can be found in detail under Legislative News/Insurance Bills/Clarity Bill (SB-399)

 

Alabama lawmakers pass bills to create tax deduction for strengthening homes against storms

Jeff Amy, Press-Register Jun 3, 2011 - Read original item

State lawmakers passed bills Thursday that would create a tax deduction for strengthening homes against hurricanes and tornadoes, set up an Insurance Department trust fund for retrofitting homes, and require that insurers publicly disclose information when they ask regulators for rate changes.

Posted 6/3/2011

Alabama legislature approves hurricane retrofit bill

A fund that could allow coastal residents to retrofit their homes for hurricanes, without having to personally pay for the improvements, was approved by the Alabama Legislature on Thursday.

The Strengthen Alabama Homes Fund has no current revenue stream, but the bill’s sponsor anticipates that fine money from the Gulf oil spill and federal grants will eventually provide retrofitting dollars.

 Read George Altman's complete 5/6/2011 article at Al.com

Posted 5/6/2011

State Senate approves hurricane retrofitting fund

The state Senate approved a bill Wednesday to create a fund that could accept oil spill fines, federal grants and money from other sources and give those dollars to homeowners seeking to retrofit their property to better withstand hurricanes.

The proposal does not allocate money from any particular sources to help homeowners with retrofitting costs. It only creates a place to hold money for this purpose, should dollars become available later.

Read complete 4/28/2011 article at Al.com

Posted 4/28/2011

Coastal insurance bills pass Senate committee after unusual procedure

A handful of coastal insurance bills passed a state Senate committee Thursday afternoon but only after most of them were voted down by the same committee in a morning meeting and then resurrected to get a rare second chance to advance.

Bills approved out of Senate Committee include:
SB 7, which would require insurers to notify their customers about premium discounts available if they retrofit their homes to make them more hurricane-resistant.
SB 389, which would create a state fund that could accept money from federal or private grants, as well as potential oil spill fines, and then dole it out to homeowners seeking to retrofit their homes.
SB 395, which would give homeowners who retrofit their property an income tax deduction.
SB 396, which would provide tax breaks to companies that insure homeowners currently covered by the state insurer of last resort, the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association.
SB 400, which would provide tax benefits for property owners who open special disaster savings accounts to pay for storm damage.
SB 2, the HHII Clarity Bill, was not considered.

Read complete 4/22/2011 article at Al.com

Posted 4/22/2011

LATEST REVISION TO HB713

Bill to renamed

The Legislative Engagement Committee has whittled the bill into the form that is attached.  Anyone who has time, please read and make final comments.  You can read all the previous bills and submit comments on the HHII Discussion Forum.

Posted 11/30/2010

REVISED TRANSPARENCY BILL (HB713)

Read revised version of HB713 and suggested revisions which will be incorporated before Bill is introduced in 2011 legislative session.

Posted 11/20/2010/

Shortcoming of the HB713 Transparency Bill:

  Comments of Charles Angell as a member of the CRCAL Insurance Subcommittee.  Comments do not necessarily reflect the position of the AL Department of Insurance or the Insurance Commissioner.

Reposted 5/7/2011

HHII supported insurance bills introduced & killed
in Alabama Legislature regular session 2010

At State Senator Lowell Barron's direction, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted down all six coastal insurance bills on March 31, 2010, making it unlikely that the Legislature will pass any more homeowners insurance overhauls in 2010

HB248 This bill would require homeowners insurance coverage for primary residences located throughout the state to be all-risk and sold at a level premium rate.

HB249 This bill would require homeowners insurance coverage for primary residences located throughout the state to be all-risk and sold at not more than 50% difference in premium rate per thousand sold.

HB250 This bill would require homeowners insurance coverage for primary residences located throughout the state to be all-risk and sold at not more than 100% difference in premium rate per thousand sold.

HB713   This bill would create the Department of Insurance Transparency Act.  It would require insurance companies transacting business in the state to provide policy and premium information to the Department of Insurance. The bill would require the department to provide on the department website aggregate data of the number of homeowner’s insurance policies and the total dollar amount of premiums collected and claims pending or paid representing the total of every insurance company doing business in Alabama.  The bill would also require the department to post on the department website a comprehensive description of the actuarial model used by the department for homeowner’s risk and other related data.

SB534   This bill would create the Department of Insurance Transparency Act.  It would require insurance companies transacting business in the state to provide policy and premium information to the Department of Insurance. The bill would require the department to provide on the department website aggregate data of the number of homeowner’s insurance policies and the total dollar amount of premiums collected and claims pending or paid representing the total of every insurance company doing business in Alabama. The bill would also require the department to post on the department website a comprehensive description of the actuarial model used by the department for homeowner’s risk and other related data.

SB573 This bill would prohibit the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association from using the term beach pool in any document or electronic material referencing the association.

Original Post

Governor considers creating home insurance task force

HHII and the Coastal Band re-insurance entity make Channel 10 news

Go to post by Matt Barrentine on FOX10tv.com to see video

The cost of homeowners insurance in our area, and across the Gulf Coast, has spiraled upwards ever since hurricane Katrina.  Monday (7/15/2013) in Gulf Shores Governor Robert Bentley called for a “task force” of coastal governors to come together to find solutions.

If you own a home in a coastal county you know what your homeowners insurance costs you. Nearly two-thirds of that big bill is your wind insurance which insurance companies say is vital for when the next Katrina comes along. Governor Robert Bentley outlined a plan to take action on high insurance costs. "I've asked the national governors association to set up a task force of coastal governors to look at this because every coast is having problems with this," Bentley said.

One reform that’s already been passed is called the Clarity law. This will break down premiums and claims across the state by zip code. So for the first time consumers and the state will see how much coastal areas are being charged compared to inland areas. With that information in hand, it will give Governor Bentley the chance to make things fair.

An even bigger problem in need of a solution is reinsurance. Get this, as much as one-third of your insurance bill pays for your insurer’s insurance. That sends billions of dollars to overseas companies, little of which ever returns to the US. The solution: take that money and put it into a non-profit pool in coastal areas to handle all named storms.

Michelle Kurtz with Homeowners’ Hurricane Insurance Initiative a grassroots group fighting for consumers, told us what her organization is fighting for, “Keep the wind insurance premium here and let it accumulate year after year. That could pay for two or three category 3 storms every year Kurtz said such a program could cut premiums in half, “We believe even if our wind premiums are even cut in half and collected by this reinsurance entity this non-profit will be able to provide and pay for our claims of named storms,” Kurtz told us.

 Setting up such a multi-state program would be daunting. Governors from Maine to Texas would have to be brought on board. State Representative Steve McMillan said he’s optimistic, but there would be major hurdles. "I think it would be great to have the national governors association looking at it helping with it. One of the solutions may be a multi state compact but that's not ever worked before because it takes federal legislation,” McMillan told us.

Kurtz pointed out multi-state pacts are in place for oil and gas rights and banding together for storm coverage is attainable. ”We can solve this problem,” Kurtz said, “The money is there. We just have to come up with the right formula that would work with the states and that’s possible.”

Kurtz and her group will be on a conference call with the Governor’s staffers Wednesday along with legislatures from other Gulf Coast states.

Posted 7/17/2013

PROPERTY OWNERS INSURANCE REFORM NOT ON
ALABAMA HOUSE REPUBLICANS AGENDA

Republicans in the House of Representatives understand that the rights of Alabamians are under constant threat from an ever-expanding and encroaching federal government, committed liberal activists, and entrenched special interests fighting to preserve the dysfunctional status quo.  For that reason, House Republicans propose this “We Dare Defend Our Rights” agenda for the 2013 legislative session, and will prioritize their work to ensure that each of these items become law.

Updated 1/31/2013

Alabama must act now on insurance reform

By Ben Brooks

Insurance continues to be unavailable and unaffordable for thousands in Alabama, particularly those in south Alabama. The insurance of tens of thousands of homeowners has been canceled, forcing them to choose between poor options. They have either gone without wind coverage or accepted policies that are not from standard commercial carriers (i.e., surplus-lines policies or "wind pool" policies). Those who have not been canceled are required to pay premiums that are thousands more than before and which routinely have wind deductibles (even for non-tropical wind events) of $5,000 to $10,000 or more (5% of value). This crisis of availability and affordability has also been a huge drain on builders, developers, material suppliers, and realtors. Home values and tax revenues to the state from south Alabama have also been negatively impacted.

Read all of ex-Senator Brooks' comments here

Posted 1/6/2013

Gov. Robert Bentley says more insurance reforms are needed in Alabama

Governor Robert Bentley came to Foley, AL on June 13, 2012 to express his appreciation to the legislators for passing the insurance bills this session.  Local legislators, members of the Governor’s Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, HHII members, and other elected officials were in attendance.

Go to al.com & Fox 10 News reports for more details.

Posted 6/13/2012

Bills backed by Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission

Limit the application of large wind deductibles for damage from non-named storms.

Require insurance companies to detail on customers’ bills how the cost of coverage for different types of risk — such as catastrophic wind damage, theft and fire — combine to form the total premium amount.

Force insurers to notify their customers annually about discounts available for properties retrofitted to better withstand storms.

Create a new insurance market featuring lower premiums and higher deductibles, which customers could pay for with the help of a state fund.

Allow so-called captive insurance companies, which are allowed to sell policies only in a limited area or to certain people, to possibly operate more like traditional insurers by serving larger areas, offering additional types of insurance coverage and undergoing other changes.

Create new incentives for private insurance companies to write policies for homes that are currently covered by the state’s coastal insurer of last resort.

Change rules governing the degree to which private insurers would be responsible for funding the state’s insurer of last resort if a storm were to create more damage than the insurer of last resort could pay.

Posted 7/1/2012

GOVERNOR BENTLEY SIGNS CLARITY ACT

Only a few months ago experts, lobbyists, many legislators and the media predicted that the Clarity Bill was dead on arrival. The faithful work of our coastal legislators and consumers demonstrates what can happen when people of good will work together.

HHII particularly appreciates Senator Trip Pittman's diligence and dogged work for passage of the bill. The momentum he built for the altered the course of events midway through the session.

All coastal legislators – Democrat and Republican - are to be praised for their remarkable work in getting The Clarity Bill (SB210) passed in the State Legislature.

This is an excellent first step.

As a church-based organization, we thank God for all the times that He gave us breakthroughs in some of the darkest moments.

Productive insurance industry participation helped craft a bill, we believe it is the most that can be accomplished in the current legislative environment. As passed it has several significant changes from the wording HHII would have preferred. Even so, it has the potential to bring much needed data to light.

HHII trusts the insurance companies will continue to cooperate in good faith to provide the information necessary to make a meaningful comparison of insurance costs throughout the state.

Revised 1/20/2013

PRESS REGISTER EDITORIAL ON INSURANCE BILLS

ALABAMA LAWMAKERS approved four insurance reform bills during the regular session that wraps up today, but their work is far from over. Indeed, it’s hardly time to declare victory and dismiss the idea of a special session just for insurance reform.

Gov. Bentley called the bills passed so far a “giant step forward” in making insurance affordable to people on the Gulf Coast. While we wouldn’t go that far, we’d agree that Alabama is making some progress.

Read complete 5/16/2012 editorial

Posted 5/16/2012

Insurance bill SB210 achieves final passage in Legislature

The Alabama House passed all four of the insurance bills, including SB210, the Clarity Bill, on its agenda this afternoon (5/8/2012), leaving the governor's expected signature as the only obstacle remaining to a significant part of south Alabama lawmakers' insurance package becoming law.

Read Package of insurance bills achieves final passage in Legislature at al.com

Posted 5/8/2012

House approves bill to require insurers to disclose coverage

The House of Representatives voted 96-0 late Thursday night (5/3/2012) for the bill requiring insurance comSteve McMillanpanies to more clearly disclose to homeowners what their policies do and do not cover.

It now moves to the Alabama Senate for consideration.

"It's needed to inform Alabama homeowners of their rights in respect to their insurance policies," sponsor Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Bay Minette, said.

Read Alabama House approves bill to require insurers to more clearly disclose coverage at al.com

Posted 5/4/2012


THANKS AGAIN TO J.D.CROWE,
PRESS-REGISTER CARTOONIST

From Alabama Black Hole on Croweblog, 4/23/2012

What's worse than hurricanes and tornadoes? That black hole in Montgomery. We need insurance reform and leaders willing to make it happen.

What's it going to take to make insurance reform a priority in this state?

You'd think after hurricanes Ivan and Katrina on the Gulf Coast and last April's disastrous tornadoes in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area, someone in Montgomery would take a leadership role in solving Alabama's homeowners insurance debacle.

Where's Gov. Robert Bentley? Didn't he promise an insurance special session? We know where Alabama's biggest insurance boss hog is. Alfa is hoarding their profits and dropping policies while spinning and grinning with legislators. They're happy with the leadership black hole in Montgomery.

Posted 4/24/2012

READ MORE ARTICLES & POSTS ON
INSURANCE INDUSTRY OBSTRUCTIONISM

Ignore the bully and unite for insurance reform

How senators voted on insurance bills

ALFA dog

Alfa bulldog

Mobile Senate delegation draws the line with Alfa

Updated 4/27/2012

Disagreement on one bill derails full slate of insurance bills

4/18/2012 post on al.com by George Altman, Capital Bureau

A slate of five insurance bills — four of them ostensibly supported by State House heavyweight Alfa Mutual Group — derailed in the Senate on Tuesday, largely because of a fight over the one bill that Alfa opposed.

 Angry and frustrated south Alabama lawmakers accused the insurance company of a vindictive power play to kill an entire calendar of bills because lawmakers had crossed them by seeking passage of one proposal that the company was against.

But a spokesman for Alfa said Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, shouldn’t have tried for Senate consideration of a controversial bill within a package of proposals to which the industry had agreed.

"The responsibility for what’s happened today lies with the sponsor of the bill, that knew there were concerns about a bill, and yet insisted that that be put into the mix," Jeff Helms said in an interview.

Even after that bill failed, a few upstate lawmakers conducted a long filibuster — orchestrated by Alfa, according to south Alabama senators — that ultimately stopped consideration of several bills that Helms has said Alfa supports.

Asked in an interview why he thought Alfa would do that, Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said the action was the insurer’s way of saying, "We just want to show that we’re tougher than everybody else. Yeah, we’re tougher. We run this place."

The bill at the center of the melee, Brooks’ Senate Bill 231, would require insurers to notify their customers of premium discounts available for homes built to particular standards. Helms said that including such a disclosure in customer policy renewals would require expensive changes to the company’s computer systems. Brooks has offered use of his personal copy machine and paper to insurance companies that claim to be worried about the costs associated with what he described as a simple and inexpensive requirement. The opposition to a proposal asking insurers to send just one more piece of paper to customers each year shows how unwilling Alfa, and the lawmakers voting with the company, are to reasonable compromise, Brooks said. "You are lighting a fire under the people of Mobile by voting against this bill," Brooks said on the Senate floor. "This bill is the simplest of bills, and you have just sent Exhibit A to Mobile and Baldwin counties about what’s going on in the Alabama Legislature." He called the actions of senators and the industry representatives influencing them "shameful" and "pathetic." SB 231 was the first insurance proposal considered by lawmakers on Tuesday. It quickly failed on a procedural vote.

Then House Bill 189, an industry-driven proposal that would allow Alfa and other Alabama-based insurers to expand their investments out of state, also failed on a procedural vote. Brooks and several other lawmakers who voted for SB 231 voted against HB 189, a bill that before Tuesday hadn’t received a single nay vote in legislative committees or the full House.

Next, Sens. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn; Roger Bedford, D-Russellville; and Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, launched a filibuster that totaled some 90 minutes, ultimately leading Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, to set the three remaining insurance bills aside. Those bills would:

Require insurers to disclose information to the state Department of Insurance, which would aggregate the data and create a public database, searchable by ZIP code, showing how many policies insurers write, how much they charge for premiums and how much they lose in claims.

Allow homeowners to create "catastrophe savings accounts," which would have tax benefits similar to a retirement account and could be used to help pay for storm damage.

Provide tax breaks to insurance companies that write policies in parts of south Alabama.

Brooks questioned whether his Senate colleagues were representing the citizens of Alabama or insurance industry lobbyists. "Who do we work for in this body?" Brooks asked. "I don’t have to go through a lobbyist and get agreement to a bill, to be able to offer a bill to you on the floor. I shouldn’t have to."

Read related post on AP post on al.com Insurance bills stall in Alabama Senate

Posted 4/19/2012

Bill would give insurers millions to cover coastal properties

By George Altman, MPR Capital Bureau, 3/18/2012
Read complete article

The state would give $2.5 million to each insurance company that meets benchmarks for covering south Alabama properties currently enrolled with Alabama’s insurer of last resort under a bill filed in the Alabama Legislature by Rep. Randy Davis, the Daphne Republican.  Davis said he’s still trying to decide where the money would come from but added that his preference is for it to be taken from the state General Fund.  

Davis said the bill is intended to shrink the size of the Alabama Insurance Underwriters Association. Should a major storm strike Alabama and cause more damage to property covered by the association than it can pay, private insurance companies throughout the state would have to make up the difference. These costs would then likely be passed on to their customers statewide.

The proposal, House Bill 470, is one of more than a dozen bills introduced by south Alabama lawmakers to overhaul property insurance laws and make coverage more widely available and less costly and has been approved by legislative committee.

Perhaps the insurance bill with the best chance of becoming law this session is Senate Bill 227, which would allow homeowners to create "catastrophe savings accounts." That bill, which has cleared committee, has the support of Alfa Mutual Group, according to company spokesman Jeff Helms.

Another measure, Senate Bill 210 sponsored by Pittman, would require insurers to publicly disclose information about how many policies they write, what they charge and what losses they take. The proposal passed a Senate committee but may have difficulty becoming law because of opposition from the insurance industry. "We have some concerns about the bill," said Alfa’s Helms. "There’s a cost of implementation with it that we’re concerned about."

Posted 3/18/2012

LEGISLATORS INTRODUCE SEVERAL BILLS TO ADDRESS HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE CRISIS

Senators Brooks & Pittman, and Representatives Davis & McMilllan and others have introduced several bills dealing with insurance into the current session.  Review them (click here) and let your legislator know whether you think they will help YOU.

Updated 3/16/2012

Chances for coastal insurance overhauls uncertain
on eve of legislative session

From 2/5/2012 article by George Altman, MPR Washington Bureau

Alabama has seen the election of a new governor pledging to address insurance problems, a dramatic switch in balance of power in the state Legislature and the creation of a special commission dedicated to property insurance issues.

Yet despite all of the changes, the coastal insurance debate in 2012 is playing out much as it has in years past.

Grass-roots activists in Mobile and Baldwin counties are calling for insurance companies to provide more information, more widely available coverage and lower rates for homeowners in south Alabama. Insurance companies will likely oppose such legislative efforts. And on the eve of the 2012 legislative session, which begins Tuesday, the prospects for significant changes to state insurance law remain uncertain.

There seems to be widespread agreement on at least one point: Despite his 2010 pledge to call a special legislative session on insurance, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley has been wise not to call that session yet.

"There’s no point in having a special session until you’ve got your solution," said Dan Hanson, a leader of the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative, a south Alabama group that has been one of the staunchest advocates for sweeping changes to state insurance laws. "At this stage, there’s no agreement on what will fix the problems."

State Sen. Ben Brooks, a Mobile Republican who has become one of the leading voices on coastal insurance, said that "one of the leading components" of the package — and a top priority for the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative — is a bill that would force insurers to publicly disclose the number of policies they write, the premiums they charge and the losses they incur in a statewide database.  The index would be searchable by zip code, he said. 

Insurers have strongly opposed that so-called clarity bill in the past, and Russell wasn’t optimistic about its chances in 2012.  "I think that would be extremely difficult to get through. I don’t think the insurance industry is going to support that," he said.

"I don’t quite understand the dynamics of — well, for example, our scheduling. Once a month just doesn’t do it," said Michelle Kurtz, a member of the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative who also sits on the commission. "There’s a lack of energy or engagement."

Read complete article at al.com

Posted 2/5/2012

TELL REP. FAUST WHAT YOU THINK

Click on links posted below, read the articles published in the 1/18/2011 MPR, and consider calling Rep. Joe Faust's office (990-4615) with your reaction.  Ask him why he is not supporting the Clarity Bill? Let him know that you are disappointed and that he has said to our faces that he supports the bill, but he is not doing it publicly. 

If you just want to leave a message, try calling after 5pm.

$15,000 DEDUCTIBLE!!! Another loan and a mortgage!!!! Would this work for you?

Baldwin leads by adopting new plan

Helping Baldwin County homeowners help themselves

 Modified 1/28/2012

Post-tornado law would allow Alabama residents
to hire private insurance adjusters

Read complete 1/6/2012 Birmingham News article by Robin DeMonia

State insurance officials and others are working on legislation that would let Alabamians with insurance claims hire their own adjusters, clarifying what has been a gray area of the law.

If passed, there'd be no question Alabamians could hire so-called public adjusters to help establish the scope of their losses and probably get more money from their insurance companies.

The tradeoff, according to a national insurance trade group that opposes the idea, would likely be higher insurance rates.

"Public adjusters are unnecessary and do more harm than good because they drive up costs," said Monique Kabitzke, the Southern regional manager for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America.

The role of public adjusters has been debated in the state in the past, but the discussion has become more pointed since the devastating tornado outbreak last April, which generated more than 117,000 claims totaling at least $2.2 billion.

Legislation was proposed last year to license and regulate public adjusters in Alabama, but it was dropped because of objections from the Alabama State Bar. Now, the Bar is working with state insurance regulators and industry groups on a compromise measure for the legislative session starting in February.

"The reality is that there are public adjusters in Alabama, but we don't know how many because there is no law that compels their registration," said Ragan Ingram, chief of staff at the Insurance Department. "A law would provide standards of education and training and would allow the state to know who is assisting Alabama consumers."

Alabama is one of six states with no law regarding public adjusters, who work for policyholders as opposed to insurance companies. All of Alabama's neighboring states license public adjusters; Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee passed laws after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters said the absence of a law doesn't mean adjusters can't work legally in Alabama. But it does leave them operating on uncertain and unregulated ground.

Rose Hill of Pratt City said she'd never heard about public adjusters before a tornado hit her home April 27. She became a fan when an acquaintance hooked her up with Dean Cavalieri, a public adjuster from Florida who helped convince State Farm that her damaged house should be demolished.

"Having a public adjuster was a big help to me," she said. "The tornado, this was my first time being in one. There was a lot of stuff for me to handle that I wasn't prepared for."  More

Posted 1/6/2012 (Hat tip to Stan Virden)

No silver bullet for Alabama's insurance crisis

By BEN BROOKS Special to the Press-Register

Homeowners insurance reform must be a rallying cry for all citizens in our region and our state. We are all aware of the immense negative effect this crisis has had on us as individuals and on our economy as a whole.

All of our leaders, whether elected, business, civic, social or other, should be willing to take political ownership of the issue and confront the tough questions that are at the heart of the crisis.

The effort must be approached with the same unity and resolve as would any major initiative to attract industry, create jobs or improve our lives. This unity and resolve are crucial as Gov. Robert Bentley prepares to name members of the Insurance Reform Commission and call a special session on insurance in the fall of this year.

We must recognize that no single “silver bullet” bill or idea will solve all of the numerous complex problems with the availability and affordability of insurance. The state’s proper course lies in a comprehensive package of bills.

 Read complete article

Posted 6/20/2011

Alabama won't create a state-owned insurance

In an interview with Phillip Rawls of the Associated Press, Governor Bentley said Alabama won't create a state-owned insurance plan like Florida's Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which has faced deficits while becoming the state's largest carrier. Instead, he's considering using about $100 million that Alabama expects to get from BP for the Gulf oil spill and put it in an investment account.

He anticipates homeowners could buy insurance with a high deductible, possibly $25,000, because it would be much more affordable and available. Then they would pay maybe $25 a month to belong to the investment program. If their homes were damaged or destroyed by a storm, they could borrow their $25,000 deductible from the program and repay over it several years at little or no interest.

So far, nothing is worked out with the Legislature, and there is no date for a special session.

"We will not call a special session until we have the problem worked out," he said. "We are not going to waste taxpayers' money by trying to have a special session."

Posted 6/20/2011

MORE ON SPECIAL SESSION

Governor Bentley said he might call lawmakers back into special session, perhaps as soon as this fall, to address affordable homeowners' insurance coverage for hurricanes, tornadoes or other wind damage.

Bentley said he would call the session only if "all the parties" agreed on a bill or package of bills.

"We will try to have something that will help people of this state to have affordable insurance for their homes", he said.

Posted 6/20/2011

SESSION ENDS WITH NO WORD ON INSURANCE CRISIS

Thursday (6/2/2011), speaker Hubbard said "If we stopped right now, this would be the most productive session in decades and we still have a day to go.  I think if we stopped two weeks ago it would have been the most productive session in decades.  I am real proud of what we've done."

Read the full Montgomery Register article 'Leaders ready for last day of legislative session'.  There is not one word about the homeowner insurance crisis.  Clearly we are not yet being heard on Goat Hill.

See bills introduced by Sen. Brooks

  Posted 6/6/2011

Beware of insurance industry’s motivations

CRAIG SKAGGS

On April 22, George Altman’s article, "Coastal insurance bills pass, eventually," (see post below; also see similar comments about insurance lobbyists at House Committee hearing ) reported that the insurance lobby in Montgomery the previous day had tried to kill four bills that would have helped Alabama homeowners strengthen their homes against storms.

The package of bills faces a long uphill climb against the resources of the insurance industry before they clear the full Senate and House to become law.

To the casual observer, it would appear odd that the insurance industry would work so hard to prevent customers from doing things to lower claims in the wake of storms.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee members had, in their morning meeting, listened to two insurance lobbyists say the bills caused them no problems but should be killed because they might somehow interfere with the upcoming Governor’s Commission on Coastal Insurance, which is being organized to help homeowners afford homeowners insurance.

Two committee members, however, pointed out that insurance lobbyists had visited state legislators to tell them the package of bills should be killed to give insurance lobbyists "leverage."

Their actual objective is to stop the thing they really fear: Senate Bill 2, a bill offered by citizen groups to force the Alabama insurance industry to turn over, by ZIP code, premium amounts and claims paid.

Makes you wonder what they are hiding. Could it be the industry is making a fortune in premiums, unwarranted by homeowner damage risks?

Posted 4/29/2011

HOUSE BANKING & INSURANCE COMMITTEE HEARING

This picture was taken just before the beginning of Wednesday's (4/20/2011) House Banking and Insurance Committee Hearing on insurance bills affecting our coastal insurance crisis.  With the exception of a couple coastal legisalators, all the people you see around the walls are Insurance Lobbyists.  HHII had a couple people present, but otherwise lobbyists dominate the audience. Not the tens of thousands of affected families.

Thanks to Sen. McMillan, HHII was alerted to the hearings, all be it with minimal notice.  Coastal representatives Steve McMillan, Joe Faust, Harry Shiver, Randy Davis and James Buskey presented a handful of bills written by Senator Ben Brooks. (the Clarity Bill supported by HHII, was not one of them.) Senator Brooks said they wanted to present basically fluff bills that do a little but not much good and need to be gotten out of the way before the governor's special insurance commission and proposed special legislative session begin. That way, they can deal with much more profound changes in the special session.  Fluffy as they were, the insurance lobbyists opposed them.

At one point, when Sen Brooks said the lobbyist opposition to a bill was a stalling tactic, a lobbyist said from the sidelines that Brooks was lying. The lobbyists maintained all bills should be put off until the upcoming special session and then considered as parts of a whole package. Brooks continued, and the lobbyist again said he was lying. With a measure of grace most of us would find difficult to muster, Brooks answered the accusation without ever looking at the lobbyist. Lobbyists opposed and defeated bills in past years when no special sessions loomed on the horizon, he pointed out.

Then, a Democrat's set of questions shed bright light on the nature of past lobbyist traditions. After a different lobbyist had spoken against one of the bills at some modest length, Tuscaloosa Representative Christopher England, a Democrat, asked the lobbyist what was wrong with the bill. The lobbyist had said it like most should simply be put off until the special session but had not cited any specific problem with the bill. Representative England wondered if there was any problem. If there was no porblem with it, why not go ahead and get it out of the way?

The lobbyist responded with a fair number of sentences, none of which listed any problem specific to the bill. There was a momentary pause, and then Rep England asked again: Is there any problem with the bill. At that point another lobbyist sitting against the wall blurted out somewhat insistently: it needs to be considered as part of a package in the special session! It sounded to me almost petulent, as if the audacity of a representative requiring an answer out of insurance lobbyists was an unheard of violation of proper decorum. A pause hung in the air. Then Rep England asked again: but, do you have a problem with the bill. It was getting interesting.

At that point, lobbyist Steve Windom jumped up and said the bill would cost the state general fund $450,000*. After a pause, Rep England thanked the "industry" (the legislature's code word for lobbyists) for its odd concern for the state's general fund, and then asked again: but, is there a problem for the industry in this bill? After a moment, Mr. Windom said, "there is no problem with the bill," adding that it just needed to be put off until the special session.

It was a remarkable exchange. Rep England's persistent rowing against the tide seemed to well-illustrate that -- unlike the average coastal homeowner attending meetings of this sort-- insurance lobbyists (ooops) -- "the industry" - is not necessarily expected to deliver clear, provable, fact-based arguments regarding their opposition to a bill.

It was an embarrasing moment for "the industry", and, for the first time, I began to believe the lobbyists aren't an invincible super race. There is a chance normal people will be able to beat their behind-closed-doors tactics and get this problem fixed.

Sunshine and fresh air are among the most remarkable remedies. An informed, unified and committed-to-success people can't be stopped.  Join HHII as it shines the light on "the industries'" machinations.

(*Sen Brooks pointed out that the $450,000 figure was based on an assumption that all policies held by the Wind Pool would be taken over by "the industry" -- a faulty assumption. The less taken over, the smaller the impact on the state general fund, and he believed the number taken over would be considerably fewer than the 100% projection.)

Revised 4/29/2011

Is there a home insurance scam inherent in Alabama law?

An opinion piece, below, by Woody Snell in the 4/9/2011 Montgomery Advertiser suggests there is.  He writes, in part:
 
"Looking at the current market problems, there appears to be a home insurance scam inherent in Alabama law. People who purchase Baldwin County properties (and probably Mobile and other counties that I have not researched) are required to purchase home owners' insurance at a very high rate and, if they pursue a mortgage loan, will have to purchase insurance that has a 5 percent "exclusion clause."

What has happened to so many people is that mortgage and insurance companies have gone up on their rates on people who bought knowing what they could afford and then had their financial commitments raised on them with no recourse. They had to walk away because they could no longer afford to pay for the mortgage and insurance requirements."

Read complete opinion piece in Montgomery Advertiser

Posted 4/10/2011

Gulf Coast residents pushing for coastal insurance reform

When the state Legislature starts its session Tuesday, a group of south Alabama residents hope that a new governor and Republican majority will mean renewed interest in addressing soaring coastal property insurance rates.

At meetings around Mobile and Baldwin counties, members of the Homeowners Hurricane Insurance Initiative have been discussing grassroots efforts to support Senate Bill 2. The proposal, also known as the Property Insurance Clarity Bill, is sponsored by Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile.

The bill would require insurance companies to publish how much they charge in premiums and how much they pay out in claims in each zip code in Alabama, Stan Virden, an initiative member, said.

Read complete 2/24/2011 article by PR reporter Guy Busby

Posted 2/24/2011

This page last updated 8/12/2013