18 Legislators Voice Outrage at TWIA Rate Hike
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect a change in the start time for the TWIA meeting in Corpus Christi on December 10. The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association moved the meeting time to 8:30 a.m. from 9 a.m. Also added is the chamber's request that those opposed to the rate hike to email the message “No Rate Hike” to email@example.com by noon Friday, December 6.
A group of 18 Texas legislators signed a letter of outrage to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association after a TWIA committee recommended a 5 percent rate hike for 2020. The recommendation will be voted up or down at a meeting of the full TWIA Board of Directors on December 10 in Corpus Christi.
TWIA responded by scheduling a meeting room in the Texas Capitol to “discuss issues of interest with legislators and their staff related to TWIA’s operations and the agenda for the upcoming board meeting,” according to an announcement emailed to lawmakers.
TWIA’s leadership team will be in room E2.020 at 10 a.m. Wednesday, December 4, to meet with legislators and their staffs.
An earlier letter signed by the same representatives and submitted in November just before the TWIA Actuarial and Underwriting Committee meeting was ignored, said State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi).
“They blew us off,” Hunter said. “They didn’t care. Well, I say, ‘Game on!’ As for December 10, I will be calling on all fourteen counties in the Coastal Bend to show up to fight for a zero percent rate hike.”
The next letter contained much stronger language than the first.
“As Texas legislators charged with representing the interests of coastal residents and business owners, we are outright offended by the rate increase recently proposed by the TWIA Actuarial and Underwriting Committee at the November 19th, 2019, meeting,” the letter begins. “This proposed rate increase will adversely impact working families in a time of economic restraint and renewal in this post-Hurricane Harvey time period.”
The letter goes on to highlight legislative actions taken over the past 12 years to change board composition, legal processes, administrative and claim operations, and the association’s funding structure.
“TWIA must have a better understanding and grasp of the gravity of economic conditions in Hurricane Harvey impacted communities before considering a rate increase,” the letter reads. “As policy makers, we ask you to consider seriously the fundamental differences between a traditionally funded private insurer and TWIA that serves as the state’s insurer of last resort.”
The letter cites the thousands of policy holders who will have to decide between continued coverage and other necessities. Many may opt to forgo coverage and “hope for the best.”
“When the TWIA Board meets on December 10th, in Corpus Christi, please look at the realities of life in Hurricane Harvey impacted communities,” the legislators ask. “A premium increase sends a terrible message about TWIA. We encourage you to look at other ways to achieve the goal of generating revenues to pay claims that will not put recovering communities at a disadvantage.”
Legislators ended on an even more serious tone.
“We also expect that the TWIA Board and Committees show respect and attention to Texas legislators' requests,” the missive concludes.
Joining in on a message of no rate increase, the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce also released a statement after the actuarial committee meeting. Beyond the rate increase recommendation, the chamber expressed concern with the how the meeting was held.
“The committee’s recommendation for a 5 percent rate hike, made via teleconference, was clearly not made in good faith,” the statement reads. “Not a single member of the committee was willing to vote in person, while many individuals from our Gulf Coast community made the over three-hour trip to Austin to address the committee in public comment.”
Chamber officials are encouraging everyone opposed to a windstorm insurance rate hike who can possible make it to attend the 8:30 a.m. December 10 meeting at the Omni Hotel, 900 N. Shoreline Blvd. in downtown Corpus Christi. They also called for the board to wait until two vacant positions on the board are filled before making any rate decisions.
“The TWIA Board of Directors currently has two vacancies, one for a first-tier coastal representative and one for a non-seacoast territory representative,” wrote the chamber. “It is unprecedented for the board to move forward with a rate increase while policyholders are not fully represented.”
The chamber also encouraged those opposed to the rate hike to send the comment No Rate Hike” to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline will be December 6 at noon for comments to be given to the TWIA board of directors.
Legislators signing the letter are: House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, District 25; Rep. Dade Phelan, District 21; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, District 21; Rep. Terry Canales, District 40; Rep. J.M. Lozano, District 43; Sen. Lois Kilkhorst, District 18; Sen. Larry Taylor, District 11; Rep. Mayes Middleton, District 23; Rep. Greg Bonnen, District 24; Rep. Todd Hunter, District 32; Rep. Abel Herrero, District 34; Rep. James White, District 19; Rep. Geanie Morrison, District 30; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, District 20; Sen. Brandon Creighton, District 4; Rep. Eddie Lucio III, District 38; and Rep. Briscoe Cain, District 128.
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