Several legislators from Baldwin and Mobile counties, with help from others, worked hard to secure passage of a package of insurance bills that were badly needed in the coastal counties. The Alabama Legislature passed all six of these bills. Gov. Robert Bentley has signed the bills into law which includes:
• Senate Bill 210, which mandates that insurers send information to the state Department of Insurance on how many policies they write, how much they charge for premiums and how much they lose because of claims. The Department would aggregate the data and then publish it on an online database that is publicly accessible and searchable by ZIP code.
• Senate Bill 230, which will give tax credits to insurance companies that write policies in particular areas of south Alabama.
• Senate Bill 164, a bill favored by insurance companies that will allow insurers based in Alabama, including Alfa Mutual Group, to make new, potentially more-profitable, out-of-state investments.
• Senate Bill 227, which will allow homeowners to create “catastrophe savings accounts,” with tax breaks similar to those of retirement accounts that could be used to help pay for storm damage.
• House Bill 166, the Homeowners Bill of Rights Act, will require that companies send a checklist to their customers each year that shows which types of coverage are included in their policies and which are not.
• House Bill 323, will establish insurance fraud as a crime and provide penalties for insurance customers and companies found guilty of such action.
Rep. Steve McMillan, who is from Baldwin County, and who has been a long-time champion of insurance reform, called passage of the bills a significant victory. Both Steve and Senator Ben Brooks from Mobile are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to this worthy cause. But there is one slight difference of opinion between these two legislators relating to reform of our insurance laws in Alabama. While Rep. McMillan apparently believes nothing more needs to be done, Sen. Brooks says there is much left to do in order to totally improve things. In any event, the passage of these bills was a start in the right direction.
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