R.I. Rep. Kennedy Urges More ‘Sunshine’ at Regulators’ Meetings

August 21, 2007

The nation’s insurance commissioners hold too many closed door sessions when they get together for meetings, according to a Rhode Island state lawmaker active on insurance issues.

In a letter this week to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Rep. Brian Kennedy recommended the group repeal its current policy of closing meetings on so-called “legislative strategy” to outsiders including state lawmakers.

Kennedy also urged NAIC President Walter Bell, who is Alabama insurance commissioner, to initiate more dialogue between regulators and insurance legislators belonging to the National Council of Insurance Legislators. Kennedy is a vice president of NCOIL.

Kennedy said NAIC and its staff would not have to have all of its meetings open but should not go into executive session to discuss legislative strategy as it now does.

“I think it is important to bring transparency to these meetings and shed some sunshine on the NAIC’s manner of conducting business,” Kennedy said in his letter, which he termed one in a series of communications in which he as expressed his “angst” over “the excessive use of NAIC Executive Sessions” of not only “insurance commissioners and supervisors, but also staff-run meetings.”

Kennedy further recommended moving forward with a plan he had previously put forward to Bell to formalize a legislator-regulator dialogue at future NAIC meetings.

“At the present time, there are no scheduled meetings on the quarterly agenda that are devoted to legislator dialogue, while there are such meetings for consumers and the insurance companies,” Kennedy noted.

The NAIC has defended its current meeting policy in response to previous calls for more open meetings.

NAIC President Bell did so in a May statement. “Open participation remains crucial to the success of the NAIC and its 56 member jurisdictions, and it always will. The overwhelming majority of our meetings allow us to interact with consumers and industry alike in open sessions. There are occasions when the organization must conduct some meetings, due to subject matter, for members only, and we stand behind our right to do so,” Bell said.

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