WASHINGTON, D.C., April 15, 2016—Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) delivered a keynote address to the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) membership at its annual Legislative Conference.
During his remarks, he focused on insurance-related legislative initiatives relevant to his home state of New York and the country—“a few areas where we’ve worked together and need to continue working together,” he said.
According to Sen. Schumer, the collaborative effort between independent insurance agents and leaders on the Hill has spanned three key areas:
1) Crop insurance. “People forget this, but New York has a thriving agriculture industry,” Sen. Schumer said, pointing out the state has the third-largest rural population in the U.S. “But we have weather, heavy snows, early freezes, floods and storms these days. Across upstate New York, crop insurance is a crucial element in the safety net that protects farmers that can put small organizations out of business.”
Last year, overwhelming opposition from the agriculture industry to proposed Federal Crop Insurance Program cuts led Congressional leaders and Agriculture Committee Leadership to negotiate a legislative fix. In March, the Big “I” sent a letter to Senate and House Budget and Appropriations Committee chairs urging them to reject calls for additional cuts to the FCIP during the fiscal year 2017 appropriations process.
Specifically, Sen. Schumer discussed the growing craft brewery industry and the need to keep barley farmers in mind when reforming crop insurance mandates. “It will not just help those who grow barley,” he said. “It’ll help an industry that’s thriving and creating jobs in upstate New York.”
2) Flood insurance. Sen. Schumer recalled New York’s reliance on flood insurance after Superstorm Sandy—an event necessary to keep at the forefront of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization in 2017. “It’s an understatement to say flood insurance was vital to the recovery that is now about 80-90% compete,” he said.
Thanks to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, major NFIP changes took effect on April 1, including new mapping procedures and premium increases. As the NFIP remains under scrutiny, H.R. 2901, the “Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act,” continues to circulate in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill clarifies that state regulators have authority over private flood insurance and ensures that policyholders can return to the NFIP without losing their grandfathered status or subsidy if they had previously left the program and obtained coverage in the private market. This is an important protection for consumers and an E&O protection for agents.
NFIP reform, Sen. Schumer said, must make flood insurance available for all those who need it: “We have to ensure the solvency of the program and we must do so in a way that doesn’t put the cost of flood insurance out of reach for the average homeowner.”
3) Terrorism insurance. More than a year ago, Congress reauthorized the “Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015” (TRIA) for another six years and established the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers (NARAB II)—without negatively impacting the program’s overall efficacy, Sen. Schumer explained.
“In most instances, you need both business and government to work well together, and terrorism insurance is one of them,” Sen. Schumer said. “This idea that we don’t need the government to be a backstop in certain areas is impractical.”
Terrorism insurance has spurred economic growth in downtown New York after 9/11—despite many predictions that “southern Manhattan would become a ghost town,” Sen. Schumer noted. “Not only do we have more jobs today in the tech industry in downtown New York, but people are starting to come live there—all because of terrorism insurance.”
“If you read American history, we always solve our problems—because we are a fundamentally practical, problem-solving, non-ideological, optimistic culture,” he said.
Sen. Schumer was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998. In addition to his leadership positions, he also serves on the Senate Finance Committee and as the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. He also serves on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Judiciary Committee, where he is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest; and the Joint Committee on the Library. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the New York State Assembly. Sen. Schumer earned his bachelor’s degree with Harvard College and is also a graduate of the Harvard Law School.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) also delivered a keynote address at the breakfast event which occurs just before members go to Capitol Hill to lobby their federal representatives. The Big “I” Legislative Conference is the insurance industry’s best-attended, most effective legislative meeting.
Founded in 1896, the Big “I” is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of approximately a quarter of a million 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, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.