Twenty-one delegates from the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, including all IIAT officers, are scheduled to attend the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s (IIABA) National Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., April 21 – 23, 2004.
According to the IIABA, more than 800 independent agents and brokers attend this annual conference to lobby members of Congress on insurance and small business matters. In promotional materials, the Big “I” said this year’s conference highlights “will include an in-depth issues briefing session; the annual IIABA congressional reception on Capitol Hill; appearances by numerous high-profile speakers discussing important insurance and national issues confronting lawmakers as well as agents and brokers in Washington, D.C.; and hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill between IIABA agents and brokers and lawmakers.”
The Texas contingent aims to make good use of its time. IIAT executive director, David VanDelinder, commented, “In addition to visiting house members from several Texas districts, we have visits scheduled with Senators Hutchinson and Cornyn during the conference on Thursday, April 22. On Friday morning, the Texas delegation will get a special tour of the White House arranged by an insider in the Bush campaign. Our focus in these visits will be on defending state regulation of insurance and on advancing a federal solution to the asbestos problem.”
VanDelinder noted that the IIABA published an agenda on its Web site (www.iiaba.net), entitled “Where We Stand on Legislative Issues,” that details areas of concern to its 300,000 members, including:
State insurance regulation
Opposed to federal regulation of insurance, the IIABA is “against the Insurance Consumer Protection Act (S. 1373), introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), that would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act and create a commission to serve as the sole, mandatory regulator of all interstate insurers offering property-casualty insurance.” The bill “would grant the commission sweeping powers to investigate the organization, business, conduct, practices and management of any person or corporation in the insurance industry, presumably extending to independent agents and brokers.”
IIABA believes modernization efforts should focus on “a pragmatic reform approach that proposes federal legislative tools, such as national standards, that will create a more uniform and streamlined state-based regulatory system.”
IIABA asserts there is “a discrepancy between marketplace reality and the tax code’s treatment of intangible assets when they are acquired as part of the purchase of another agency or brokerage.” While under current law such assets are written off over 15 years, the Big “I” notes that, “an intangible asset, such as a customer list, has a shelf life of just five years.” It advocates a faster depreciation schedule and supports H.R. 1222 by Reps. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and Max Sandlin (D-Texas), as well as S. 1371 by Senators Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and John Breaux (D-La.).
IIABA wants the “income tax rate reductions in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA)” made permanent. It “supports raising the individual alternative minimum tax exemption” and wants Congress to definitively extend the elimination of estate taxes beyond the Dec. 31, 2010 sunset date. The association strongly believes that business owners will be more likely to invest in the growth of their firms if they know “their life investments will be passed onto their heirs with minimal or no tax implications.”
To the IIABA, “asbestos litigation reform is a top legislative priority.” The Big “I” is urging Congress to act immediately on asbestos litigation reform by determining “that a claim will not be heard until an individual becomes sick from asbestos exposure.” It supports a bill by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), H.R. 1586, the Asbestos Compen-sation Fairness Act, which “would prohibit the filing of asbestos cases in which necessary medical criteria are not established,” and would “eliminate punitive damages.”
Other issues Big “I” members will be focusing on in talks with legislators include: federal crop insurance; medical and legal liability reform; flood insurance legislation; and health insurance reform.