Lawmakers weigh in on need, concerns for special session

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – After hearing the plea of the state’s insurance commissioner Governor John Bel Edwards called legislators back for a special session to put money into the Insure Louisiana Incentive Fund.

“We need to fund these incentive grants and enable these companies to take this money to the reinsurance market sooner rather than later,” Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said.

The special session is narrowed to only allowing the movement of dollars from the current year’s surplus money to the incentive fund. The fund can’t be altered, which was passed unanimously last year but was left without any money. Some legislators believe different measures should be taken to address the insurance crisis but the debate will have to wait until the regular session in April.

“I don’t think the legislature is in the position to not do anything and so if there are any other alternatives out there, I think now is the time to bring them to the table,” said Rep. Kyle Green, D-Marrero.

The incentive fund will allow grants to be awarded to companies, up to $5 million, to write policies for homeowners. They are required to write at least $20 million worth of policies, 50% have to be written in the “go zone” which is focused south of the I-10/I-12 corridor and they have to remain in the state for five years.

“What Donelon is doing is a temporary fix. Temporary, it’s not meant to be permanent but we as a legislature and his department need to come together and figure out a more sustainable solution,” said Rep. Green.

Some lawmakers are skeptical as there is no requirement for the companies to take people off of the insurer of last resort Louisiana Citizens. Donelon is hopeful they will take a sizable amount of the 120,000 policies off of Citizen’s roll.

One legislator who was an insurance agent praised the program that was used after Hurricane Katrina and Rita.

“They came to our state and they kept me in business,” said Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge.

Lawmakers will have seven days to allocate the requested $45 million to the incentive fund. The special session runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5.