NAII Says GOP Control of House, Senate May Break Log Jam on Legislation

November 11, 2002

The Republican Party regained control of the U.S. Senate, expanded its majority in the House of Representatives and re-elected all of its incumbent governors except one in a history-making election last week. President Bush joins Franklin Roosevelt and Bill Clinton as the only presidents in the past century to gain seats in a mid-term election.

As the balance of power shifts on Capitol Hill, there will be important changes among the leadership of key Senate Committees. “The change in leadership will mean that many bills that have been bottled up in committee may now receive a full hearing. Issues such as terrorism insurance stand a real chance of advancing. We should also see significant change in Congress’ approach to issues involving open market competition,” Carl Parks, senior vice president, government relations for the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII), said.

At the federal level, NAII and the insurance industry focused much of their attention on the Senate and pro-business candidates that supported less litigation, streamlined regulation and lower taxes. “There were several key Senate races such as in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and New Hampshire where there was a clear contrast between the pro-business candidate and the candidate that was aligned with the trial bar agenda. In each of these elections the pro-business candidate was elected,” Parks commented.

Following last week’s elections there will be at least 20 new governors.

Republicans picked up open Democratic seats in Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland and New Hampshire while Democrats picked up open Republican seats in Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wyoming.

There were four insurance commissioner races across the country. Incumbent commissioners Republican John Oxendine of Georgia and Democrat Carroll Fisher of Oklahoma were re-elected. In California, Democrat John Garamendi, the state’s first elected insurance commissioner, was elected to the post of insurance commissioner. Kansas went to Republican state Sen. Sandy Praeger.

Control of state legislatures in Illinois and Texas underwent dramatic change. Democrats in Illinois maintained their advantage in the House and gained control of the Senate while sweeping the major statewide races ushering in a new governor and attorney general. The industry has some concerns regarding detrimental legislative issues that could potentially be pushed through that in the past would have been defeated.

In Texas, Republicans experienced significant victories. Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry defeated his Democratic rival in a bitter fight that featured insurance issues as a focal point.

In addition to his victory, Republican David Dewhurst was elected Lieutenant Governor and Republican Greg Abbott was elected Attorney General to replace John Cornyn, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. Republicans picked up 16 seats in the House and now control both houses of the Legislature. This change in power will affect key leadership posts such as the powerful position of speaker of the House.

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