With regard to insurance issues, the 2007 Texas legislative session was “the session that wasn’t,” according to Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and principal in the Truman Taylor Insurance Agency. One major bill favored by the industry, which would have reformed funding mechanisms for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency, went down in the waning days of the session and many “bad” bills failed to make the cut early on.
“We did have some good things that needed to be done that obviously weren’t done. The major issues weren’t there for insurance,” said Taylor, speaking as member of a panel discussing legislative issues at the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas’ 110th Annual Conference & Trade Show, held in early June in San Antonio.
As far as the windstorm issue goes, Taylor said the only hope for resurrecting the bill this year is if the governor calls a special session for some other legislation, such as transportation. So far it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
Taylor explained that because a motion to suspend the state constitution to allow legislators to take up bills in the first 60 days of the session — a suspension that has been routine in the legislature for many years — failed, no committees other than appropriations committee were allowed to hear bills for the first two months. In addition, the last days of the session were taken up by a failed effort to oust current Speaker of the House Tom Craddick. So for a significant portion of the 140 day session, consideration of legislation was hampered.
With legislators unable to consider bills at the outset, “people had a lot of free time to think of other things,” Taylor said. “Bills came through the insurance committee that were, frankly, quite scary. We had the opportunity to keep those off the floor.”
Panelist James Langford, a Board member with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association/Texas Fair Plan and a vice president at Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Company, agreed there was some “creativity going on” in the development of legislation. He said between the House and Senate more than 6,500 pieces of legislation were filed, including bills and resolutions. The House filed around 4,500 bills, equivalent to about 30 per member, and the count in the Senate was approximately 2,150. Langford said he would characterize this year’s session as one in which “a lot of bad bills were introduced that were not passed, which is a positive.” He said from the industry’s perspective that those bills did not get passed was a “silver lining.”
Panel member David Durden, Texas Department of Insurance associate commissioner for Public Affairs, felt the session was not a total loss at least from the department’s perspective. Some 16 bills grew out of TDI’s Biennial Report to the Legislature, 11 of which were approved.
A couple of bills not passed were strongly opposed by the insurance industry. One, the “data mining” bill, would have helped the department to keep informed about new developments in insurance company underwriting methodology. “And if necessary, if it seems like the market is going to be disrupted, to require the insurer to phase in the new criteria,” Durden said. The other would have given TDI the authority to regulate the writing of commercial property insurance.