Lawmakers gavel in for special session to pass insurance crisis 'Band-Aid'

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana lawmakers gaveled in for the special session aimed at tackling the insurance crisis. Some legislators are skeptical of the plan, while others state they will try anything to ease the pressure on homeowners.

The special session is narrowly tailored to only deal with the Insure Louisiana Incentive Fund. Lawmakers are tasked to put $45 million into an account to help draw insurance companies to the state. Some legislators feel giving money to the companies may not be the best way to handle the insurance crisis and would rather focus on helping homeowners fortify their homes.

“Everyone recognizes this is a Band-Aid at best and this is most just a stopgap measure,” said Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma. “The region that I represent was the hardest hit from Ida, and there is no doubt that we have people who are questioning whether they can rebuild or will rebuild or have the ability to rebuild based upon insurance.”

The insurance commissioner is insistent the incentive fund will be the first big step to addressing the rising costs of property insurance and allow people to get insurance in high-risk areas. The reason why the special session needed to happen is that companies go to the reinsurance market in the spring before hurricane season. The commissioner wants to get the eight companies showing interest in coming to the state set up before it’s too late in the season.

Many legislators are hesitant to dole out money from the state general fund. The $45 million will be coming from the current year’s surplus tax revenue. Lawmakers in north and south Louisiana agree something needs to be done to address the problem.

“It may help get us to the point where in the regular session we can achieve some long-term sustainable measures that will hopefully get insurers writing in our state but also writing affordable insurance that’s going to help out the people,” Zeringue said.

The incentive fund is mirrored after a similar program that was created after Hurricane Katrina. A second bill has been introduced in the session to place restrictions on what companies can receive the grants. Those with doubts about the program hope to have assurance the companies will stay in the state and be a real benefit to the state. 

“Once those rules are in place we will have a better understanding of how it’s going to operate,” Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said. “I do think that it has the potential but based upon the history of what has happened historically after Hurricane Katrina, I don’t think the results are as good as we would have liked.”

Others said they want to be responsible with taxpayer dollars and may try to whittle down the $45 million or put a time limit on when it could be used. Tuesday will start the real debate on this issue where lawmakers and the public can share their opinions on the incentive fund in committee.