Monday, April 07, 2008

Oxendine Slams Staton

The insurance industry sure does love Sen. Cecil Staton. Georgia's Republican insurance commissioner? Not so much. A check of Staton's filings with the State Ethics Commission reveals a number of significant contributions from insurance-related people and entities, but one in particular caught my eye. On December 11, 2007, the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia, Inc., made an in-kind contribution to Staton of $1,887.26 toward the cost of a fundraiser at Atlanta's posh 191 Club. Let's call it an early Christmas present. Then, during the session, Staton was the first sponsor of SB276, a bill that passed, prompting IIAA to post this on their website.

Not everyone was quite so pleased. On the heels of a bitter, public battle between Speaker Richardson and Lt. Gov. Cagle, Georgia's insurance commissioner, John Oxendine slammed Sen. Cecil Staton for his allegiance to trial lawyers and insurance companies at the expense of his constituents, in print, in Sunday's Telegraph. (Oh, my God, he used the "T" word about another Republican.) Oxendine said the new law (assuming Gov. Perdue signs it) will increase insurance rates and allow insurance companies to implement new rates without checking in with the insurance commissioner. Here's quote:

Sen. Staton may try to confuse the issue, but the bottom line is that Senate Bill 276 is bad legislation, crafted in secret and passed with little notice or opportunity for public input. Georgians deserve better.

I agree with Commissioner Oxendine. Georgians do deserve better. It's time we had elected officials who will stand up for everyday Georgians. With the help of Georgia Republicans, who are continuing to perfect the art of the circular firing squad, we may just have a chance to elect some Democrats this November.

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1 comment:

Victor said...

4/30/08 Update:
History keeps happenin:

Oxendine has declared for the Governor's race and says Vehicle Ins rates will increase by 60% if Governor Perdue signs SB276 (Sen Cecil Staton's baby) Ok John, we're finally allies for a brief period:

" Oxendine: Look For Huge Rate Hikes If Governor Signs SB 276"
By Dick Pettys
InsiderAdvantage Georgia

(4/30/08) Some consumers could see spikes of over 60 percent on car insurance rates if Gov. Sonny Perdue signs SB 276, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said Tuesday. The measure was approved in the ’08 legislative session and would allow insurance companies to raise rates without justifying them to regulators.

“I think you can pretty well guarantee” higher rates under the bill, he told InsiderAdvantage Georgia.

He said a “large number” of rate increase requests are pending “that would go right into effect” immediately if the governor signs the measure. Plus, an unknown number of other insurance companies could be expected to take advantage of the new rules if the measure becomes law, he said.

“There would be average increases on a lot of people of 20 to 25 percent, but some people would be higher,” he said.

Oxendine offered two examples.

Amica, he said, has a filing in which some customers would see reduced premiums but others would see increases of as much as 63 percent.

Who would see the biggest increases?

“According to the filing, this is the profile: a 52-year-old single operator and 30-year policyholder with no cancellations, no moving violations, no accidents, a $500,000 policy limit, a six-year-old vehicle bought new for $25,000 and no lienholders,” he said. “That could be you or me.”

A subsidiary of AIG, 21st Century, has a pending rate increase that averages 17.4 percent but some customers would see hikes of up to 30 percent, he said.

SB 276 began its life in the 2007 session as an effort by Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) to "stack" so-called uninsured motorist policies.

These policies are sold with automobile insurance policies and cover damage from motorists who do not have insurance. Staton's bill, backed by the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and the consumer group Georgia Watch, would allow policy holders to collect twice -- both from the driver causing the accident and their own uninsured motorist policies.

Insurance lobbyists and Oxendine opposed Staton's bill, saying that it would drive up the cost of uninsured motorist coverage. It stalled in the House at the end of the 2007 legislative session.

But in 2008, a deal was struck between lobbyists for the insurance industry and the trial bar. The insurance industry dropped its opposition to stacking uninsured motorist coverage in return for the trial lawyers backing a plan that would allow insurance companies to raise rates without justifying them actuarially to the Insurance Department.

The bill flew through the House by a vote of 141 to 3, and 90 minutes later, by the Senate on a vote of 43 to 10.

The dramatic rewrite of the bill, and the speed through which it moved through the Legislature, took Georgia Watch by surprise. It changed its position from support to opposition.

Perdue also has expressed possible misgivings, telling reporters on March 11: “I have got some concerns, based on what I hear, and we’ll look at it very carefully.” He said he planned to meet with Oxendine and with supporters of the bill to hear both sides.

Oxendine, who has said he will run for governor in 2010, said the legislation “is a prime example of what you’re hearing a lot of people talking about (in the aftermath of the 2008 session). It seems like a lot of things that passed were things that had the big lobbyists behind them.”

An InsiderAdvantage / Majority Opinion Research poll conducted in March showed massive opposition to the legislation. Insider’s Matt Towery put it this way: “In all of the years I have polled in Georgia, I have rarely seen such a negative reaction to a proposal.”

Georgians are required by law to buy automobile liability insurance