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TWIA Postpones New Rate Hike Vote

State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) said the Texas Legislature, now in its 87th session, will review the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association operations and rates. Courtesy photo

The Tuesday, Feb. 23, meeting of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association has been postponed due to the winter storm that stopped the state in its tracks Feb. 15-19. The board will consider resubmitting a 5 percent increase in windstorm insurance rates denied by the Texas Department of Insurance in early January. The rate was rejected because TWIA did not adequately notify the public of the upcoming rate vote. A new meeting date has not been set.

Item No. 8D on the agenda for the next TWIA meeting should take care of the transparency issue this time. It states: December 2020 Rate Filing Review and Consideration and/or Board Action Regarding Resubmission of December 2020 Rate Filing or the Submission of a New Rate Filing.

The TWIA board of directors approved a 5 percent rate hike at its quarterly meeting Dec. 8, 2020. No item on the agenda indicated a rate vote. The vote came at item No. 8, which read: Presentation and Review of TWIA Actuarial and Underwriting Committee Meeting Rate Recommendations — Debbie King*

At the bottom of the document, a line of type explains that the asterisk by Debbie King’s name “indicates item on which General Manager believes the TWIA Board of Directors is likely to take action. However, the board may take action on any item that appears on this agenda.”

A letter to Gov. Greg Abbott signed by 20 state legislators, including state Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), beseeched him to abate the increase as he had did in October 2018. The Texas Department of Insurance took care of it before the governor had to make a decision.

When asked by Corpus Christi Business News whether the December agenda properly alerted the public to a vote on a rate increase, TWIA defended its wording.

“The TWIA Board and staff are advised by counsel that the agenda as posted on November 25, 2020 gave proper public notice that the Board would receive a report on rates, and additionally indicated that the General Manager expected that the Board may take action on that item,” wrote TWIA Vice President Jennifer Armstrong in an email. “Counsel advises that the agenda, meeting, and vote are in compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act.”

Hunter strongly disagree, as did the Texas Department of Insurance in its January decision.

“My view overall is that this is an example of NOT being open to the public and not being open to the legislators and not being open to the media,” he said after the Dec. 8 vote. “It was not clear or you would have had a thousand public comments coming in. If the public knew the board was going to consider a rate hike, they would have been there to protest.”

The current legislative session will review TWIA and its operations, Hunter said.

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