CHAIRMAN BAKER, SENATOR ALLEN DISCUSS FUTURE OF INSURANCE LEGISLATION
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 22 -- Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) and Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) today spoke to 900 members of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America about the future of important insurance legislation, including regulatory and tort reform.
Both made their remarks during a breakfast session today at the IIABA National Legislative Conference taking place in Washington through tomorrow.
Baker, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee’s Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee, assured agents and brokers that regulatory reform will not mean federal regulation. Baker teamed with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) last month to unveil a regulatory reform “road map” that will preserve state-based regulation while promoting uniformity among the states.
“I want to assure you, and this is directly from Chairman Oxley: There will not be a proposal considered by the Congress for creation of a federal regulator on K Street in Washington to regulate insurance nationally. That is just not on the table,” Baker said to a rousing ovation from the independent insurance agents and brokers.
Baker said he felt there must be reforms to the current state-based system, as well as an enforcement mechanism, but emphasized that federal reforms will not mean federal regulation. The Big “I” supports this common-sense, middle-ground approach aimed at achieving greater uniformity without creating a new federal bureaucracy.
Baker noted the difficulties presented by the unwieldy system as it operates today. Some of the problems involve such minutia as differences in what colors of paper may be used in some states, whether paperwork must be stapled or paper-clipped, or whether parentheses are allowed in documentation.
“We now have 56 different regulatory bodies,” Baker said. “There is not another product in America that has to go through a similar set of constraints in order to get the necessary approvals in the marketplace.”
Sen. Allen delivered discussed the Senate’s work a variety of issues important to independent agents and brokers including asbestos reform legislation, class action legislation, making permanent the tax cuts enacted in 2001, and standing against Internet taxes.
On the asbestos issue, which was scheduled for a vote in the Senate today, Allen noted that the heavy backlog of frivolous legal cases not only creates hardships for companies and job-creation, but also makes it more difficult for individuals with asbestos-related illnesses to receive the compensation they deserve.
“The current system in asbestos is a failure,” Allen said. “It’s a failure for companies and jobs. It’s also a failure for those who have asbestos-related diseases.”
Allen also thanked independent insurance agents and brokers for their support and dedication, and gave his assessment of the political landscape in this year’s Senate races. He said Republicans hope to make gains in southern states where Democratic incumbents are retiring—including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina—and that the party is fielding strong candidates in states where Republican incumbents are not seeking re-election—Colorado, Illinois and Oklahoma. He also pointed to contests in Alaska and South Dakota as competitive races.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.