Big ‘I’ Applauds Countersignature Trends

October 5, 2004

The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (The Big “I”) is applauding continuing efforts by state policymakers and federal courts to eliminate countersignature laws.

The Big “I” has pursued the elimination of countersignature laws ever since its National Board of State Directors adopted a resolution calling for total abolition of such laws in January 1972. The abolition of countersignature laws and similar roadblocks is reportedly a key public policy objective for the Association, which has led an effort against these laws over the last decade.

These results include:

· Since 1995, the Big “I” has spearheaded an effort that has reduced the number of countersignature laws from 16 to two (Nevada and South Dakota). The Association has actively led the way in the repeal of more than a dozen state countersignature statutes in that time.

· A multi-year, Big “I”-supported effort to eliminate West Virginia’s law achieved success earlier this year when the state legislature took action on the insurance commissioner’s repeal proposal.

· The Big “I” adopted a position in January 2002 calling for federal preemption of these laws, in conjunction with its push to institute true licensing reciprocity and uniformity through targeted federal legislation. In Congress, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) and Insurance Subcommittee Chairman Richard Baker (R-La.) adopted these middle-ground principles in their “road map” for reforming insurance regulation, which the Big “I” has strongly endorsed.

Additional successes also appear imminent in Nevada and South Dakota.

In Congress, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) and Insurance Subcommittee Chairman Richard Baker (R-La.) adopted these middle-ground principles calling for federal preemption of countersignature laws in their “road map” for reforming insurance regulation, which the Big “I” has strongly endorsed.

“Countersignature laws and similar barriers are unnecessary roadblocks to multistate commerce that reduce consumer choice and cost independent insurance agents and brokers valuable time and money,” said Ronald Tubertini, chairman of the Big “I” Government Affairs Committee. “The trend toward elimination of these inefficient and needless regulations is an ongoing affirmation of our position.”

With the Oxley-Baker “road map” legislation expected to be introduced soon, with its promise of greater uniformity, efficiency and responsiveness between states, the Big “I” feels more strongly than ever that unnecessary barriers to multistate commerce must be removed.

“These cumbersome statutes do not protect consumers, and in fact only create greater inconvenience for them and for agents and brokers,” added Thomas Ahart, president of New Jersey-based Ahart, Frinzi & Smith Insurance Agency and an IIABA past president. “As we move toward greater uniformity in licensing across the nation, these archaic statutes lose any claims to relevance that may have been offered in support of them. Countersignature laws are costly nuisances that should be abolished.”

The Big “I” reportedly strongly urges the State of Nevada not to expend taxpayer funds by appealing a recent District Court decision overturning its countersignature laws. The Association reportedly considers an appeal unnecessary and unlikely to succeed.

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