Clarity Bill Could Alleviate High Insurance Rates on Coast

Many believe the high rates of property insurance are stunting economic development along the Coast and have been for nearly a decade. News 25 caught up with some local state lawmakers and the State Insurance Commissioner to see what they’re planning to do to address this problem in the 2015 legislative session.

Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, there still many empty lots along the Coast. Many blame the area’s expensive insurance rates, which have gone up 300% since Katrina. Representative Hank Zuber (R), District 113, says, "The number one impediment that we have to economic development on the Gulf Coast is the cost of insurance and more specifically, wind and hail."

State legislators believe a bill called the Clarity Act is the solution. The Clarity Act would require property insurers to explain how and why they charge what they do and clarify it by zip code. Both Alabama and Louisiana have passed Clarity Acts. Zuber also says, "Not only is it sound public policy, but also it’s a matter or an issue of transparency and openness. Where are the highest premiums being paid? What’s wrong with requesting that information?"

Last legislative session, a Clarity Act was passed through the House, but died in the State Senate after the Mississippi Insurance Commissioner raised some concerns about the bill and the two parties were not able to come to a compromise. Legislators plan on working with the commissioner this session, but stress they want a bill that benefits residents first and foremost. Representative Scott DeLano (R), District 117, says, "What we want is something very similar to what Alabama has and nothing that is watered down. We’re not going to accept anything that’s watered down."

News 25 spoke with Insurance Commissioner, Mike Chaney, Wednesday, who says there is no need for a Clarity Act and it accomplishes very little, a viewpoint legislators and residents disagree with. Rep. DeLano also wants to see a catastrophe savings account pushed for. This would help allow taxpayers to save money and use that money in deductibles to lower their insurance premiums throughout the year.

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