Montana GOP Candidates Embrace Insurance Industry Bills

By | April 23, 2012

Republican candidates for governor said on April 19 at a forum that they would back key insurance industry legislation if elected, and largely held similar positions with each other on a variety of issues.

Most of the GOP candidates attended the event hosted by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

The candidates were largely supportive of industry legislation, such as the long-debated proposal to let insurance companies consider gender when evaluating risk. Attempts to repeal the state’s unique “unisex” insurance law banning such risk analysis have failed many times over the years.

The insurance industry argues they could offer lower rates and more competition if Montana conformed to other states. Supporters of the old law, led by Democrats, have argued that it isn’t fair to establish different rates based upon gender, and say the 28-year-old anti-discrimination law has worked well for years.

But the Republicans said they would back the industry at next year’s legislature.

“It is crazy law. You all know that,” former state Sen. Corey Stapleton, who works in Billings as a financial consultant, told a small crowd of industry workers.

Republicans have a crowded primary, topped perhaps by money leaders such as former officeholders Rick Hill, Stapleton and Ken Miller. Hill and Stapleton both appear to be strongly advocating business issues, while the Miller campaign is more aggressively courting the party’s more conservative wing.

Former Washington, D.C., business executive Neil Livingstone, who is putting his own money into the race, is shaking things up with a promise for a “revolution” that brings big change to state government. At the forum, though, he also took a unique position for a statewide candidate and called for the repeal of the state’s term limit law because he argues it creates broken relationships in the legislature and dysfunction.

Otherwise, the candidates largely agreed on issues from reducing government to developing natural resources to bashing the federal health care bill, promising to use the office to challenge it.

Hill, a former congressman, used his opening comments to reinforce his campaign theme that legal and regulatory constraints on business in Montana “act as a wet blanket over our economy.” He says Montana ranks too low in personal wages and cost of doing business. He promised to go through every state program.

“We will eliminate programs, we will find some that need more resources, but we will make them all more efficient,” Hill said.

Former Department of Transportation Director Jim Lynch said he reduced the number of employees at the agency. He left last year amid a dispute with the governor’s office over the hiring of his daughter.

Lynch differed a bit from the other candidates by arguing the state’s laws don’t prevent natural resource and business development. He argued the problem is instead “the attitude in the agencies.”

Political newcomer Bob Fanning of Pray, who had a rocky start to his campaign in trying to secure a running mate, is promising a “states’ rights” ticket and aligns himself with conservative groups like the “Oath Keepers” and touts his support of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul

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