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State Legislators Voice Concern Over Possible Heavy Turnover in Election of Insurance Commissioners this November

Source: National Underwriter

Posted on 19 Oct 2010

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At a meeting held in conjunction with the American Council of Life Insurers’ annual meeting in Baltimore, several state legislators cautioned that Up to 17 new insurance commissioners could take office as a result of the Nov. 3 elections. The comments by four state legislators at a roundtable opened the ACLI meeting.

Concern was raised over the race for the California commissioner as well as the fate of appointed commissioners in Iowa and Florida.

In advance of the meeting, ACLI staff officials noted that that there are 37 governors’ races this year—24 of which are open seats because the incumbents are not eligible to run or are not seeking re-election.

“Regardless of which party fares better this fall, for our industry new governors typically mean new appointed insurance commissioners,” the ACLI staff report said.

“The prospect of one-third to one-half of the insurance commissioners turning over in the next several months is not out of the question,” the report said.

The ACLI staff paper presented at the meeting also voiced concerns about staffing.

“Furloughs and early retirements of state employees because of budget cutbacks, and turnover of commissioners due to the 2010 gubernatorial elections could mean a fair amount of instability within the ranks of the regulatory community during a time of rapid and significant changes in our regulatory system,” the report said.

One particular concern not discussed at the meeting but being voiced in health care circles is the fate of Susan Voss, Iowa insurance commissioner, who would under the current system become NAIC president next year.

But, a new governor will be elected in Iowa, these people say, placing Ms. Voss in jeopardy.

At the meeting, Juan Vargas, a Democratic State-Senator-elect in California, warned small insurers attending the meeting that David Jones, the Democratic candidate and apparent leader in the polls, “would be an activist insurance commissioner with a lot of power.”   Mike Villines is the Republican candidate.

Both Mr. Jones and Mr. Villines are running for the job because they are term-limited in the legislature.

Rep. Clay Ford, R-Fla., said at the ACLI meeting that it is likely that if Republican Rick Scott is elected governor, he would replace Kevin McCarty, current insurance commissioner.

Rep. Ford, a support of Mr. Scott, opposes McCarty, whom, he charged, has erected “a firewall” between the Florida executive branch and the state legislature.

At the meeting, it was also noted that appointed Virginia commissioner Al Gross will be retiring in Virginia Dec. 31. Commissioner Gross is 64 and has been with the Virginia Bureau of Insurance since 1981, and commissioner since 1996.

Those speaking at the Sunday meeting said that Mr. Gross had played an active role in financial solvency matters at the NAIC, and that he will be missed.