Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday discussed legislative approval of a series of bills aimed at improving access to affordable homeowners insurance.
"These bills will empower consumers and expand their options," Governor Bentley said. "The lack of affordable homeowners insurance is an issue affecting many people across the state, especially those living along the Gulf Coast. The 2012 regular legislative session was a very productive session addressing this issue, and I commend lawmakers for working in a collaborative manner. We remain committed to continuing to address this issue, and today, I'm glad to announce we have made major progress."
Governor Bentley was joined at a news conference by Baldwin County Judge Tim Russell, who serves as chairman of the Governor's Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission.
"Members of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission and I are very grateful for the outstanding work of legislators in passing major insurance bills and for the support of the Governor," Judge Russell said. "With these bills, we now have major incentives for homeowners to establish savings accounts to better prepare for any future disasters. Insurance companies will have good opportunities to underwrite some of our coastal exposures and enjoy the benefits of tax incentives. We are all excited about moving forward to solve property insurance challenges throughout the state."
Recently-approved insurance legislation includes the following bills:
* Senate Bill 230: This measure gives tax credits to insurance companies that write insurance policies in particular areas of Mobile and Baldwin counties.
* House Bill 166: The "Homeowners' Bill of Rights." This helps consumers understand more clearly what their policies contain so they can make sure they are purchasing the coverage they need. This will help people avoid getting caught off-guard without proper coverage in the event of a disaster.
* Senate Bill 210: This measure requires insurance companies to send information to the Department of Insurance on numbers of policies written, premiums collected, and losses due to claims. The department will aggregate this information and make the data available online to the public via zip code searches. This is good for transparency in the insurance process.
* Senate Bill 227: This measure allows homeowners to create a "catastrophe savings account" that could be used toward a deductible and other uninsured losses related to storm damage.
* House Bill 323: This measure clarifies what insurance fraud is and assigns civil and criminal penalties to such fraud.
* Senate Bill 164: This measure allows insurers in Alabama to have more flexibility in their investments by allowing them to make new, out-of-state investments. By helping insurance companies in this regard, the companies will, in turn, be able to better help their customers. The measure makes Alabama more attractive for insurance companies to do business in the state.
* House Bill 405: This bill allows a homeowner to cancel a roofing contract within 10 days of signing the contract if the homeowner's insurance company says it will not cover part or all of the cost.
"Though our work is not complete, the passage of these reform bills represents an important step on the path toward comprehensive homeowners insurance reform," said Senator Ben Brooks of Mobile County.
"This legislation is a big win for consumers," said Representative Steve McMillan of Baldwin County. "Alabama is now on par with neighboring states as far as information and fairness. We were one of a handful of states without an insurance fraud law until we passed this legislation. Also, due to this legislation, Alabama now has a "Homeowners' Bill of Rights' pertaining to insurance coverage."
"Our goal is to make sure affordable insurance options are available to people all across the state," Governor Bentley said. "I want to thank the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, the Alabama Department of Insurance, legislators, consumers, and the insurance industry for working together on this important series of bills."