The legislation introduced at the request of the Texas Department of Insurance makes up 18 of the more than 6,500 bills that have been filed in the 87th Texas Legislature. Nearly 2,800 of the proposals were dropped into the hopper in the last week of filing, including several of TDI’s bills.
Filing deadline was March 12.
The House Committee on Insurance will receive about 105 filed House bills to consider as the house of origin, while the Senate Business and Commerce Committee’s load for Senate-authored insurance bills is about 30 of its total load expected to reach 150; not all bills have received committee referrals as of mid-March.
Bills must be heard by both committees and pass in both chambers before they can become law. Some bills are duplicates that are labeled companion at introduction, a method lawmakers use to give proposals twice the chance of passing. The labeling process also permits committees to avoid more than two full-blown deliberative hearings on identical proposals, according to legislative staff.
TDI was able to find authors for all of its proposed legislation, even though there is not yet a gubernatorial appointed Commissioner of Insurance. Senate Business and Commerce Committee Chairman Kelly Hancock, R-Dallas, is handling the lengthiest of TDI’s bills, including SB 1777, the NAIC model for credit for reinsurance law; SB 1809, which expands TDI’s authority over unauthorized insurance activities, and SB 1810, which updates agent and adjuster requirements.
These bills have companions introduced in the House, but not all are under the authorship of House Insurance Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD, R-Cypress. Oliverson is the author of HB 1689, the credit for reinsurance proposal, which is slated to become an NAIC accreditation standard by 2022. HB 1689 was heard in committee on March 16. Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, vice chairman of the House Insurance Committee, is the author of HB 4313, the companion of SB 1809, and Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, a former chairman of the committee, is handling HB 4030, the companion of SB 1810. Though not on the House Insurance Committee currently, Smithee formerly chaired the committee for about 20 years. Smithee is also the author of HB 2819, which is more limited in scope and includes part of the more encompassing licensing bills, as HB 2819 applies only to TDI’s proposal regarding temporary licensing.
Oliverson and Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, also have companion bills that have been filed on behalf of TDI. HB 2547 and SB 1367 would exempt from rate filing large commercial risks that fall among 17 specialty insurance lines, which are already exempt from form filing. The bills retain the surplus lines diligent search exemption for these specialty lines, but only if the coverage lines remain exempt from rate filing. The bills include authority for the commissioner to temporarily reinstate rate filing requirements if he finds “that a reasonable degree of competition does not exist” for a specific type of coverage. This bill is supported by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
Companion bills to repeal small insurers’ exemption from actuarial support for rate filings are authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, SB 965, and Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, HB 2111. Neither lawmaker currently serves on the committee that will hear the bills. Lucio chaired the House Insurance Committee during the 86th Legislative Session.
Companion bills to extend balance billing protections for ground ambulance services are authored by the two chairmen. Oliverson, who is an anesthesiologist, is carrying HB 4115, and Hancock is lead author on SB 999. Zaffirini and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, have filed related, but more limited, protections. Their bills, SB 790 and HB 4037 apply only to county ambulance services.
Three of TDI’s recommendations to ease regulations are filed as legislation only in the House. HB 4153 by Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, will allow title insurer agents to send audit reports to TDI electronically. This bill, Sanford’s HB 3255, which will relax capital stock requirements for certain insurers, and Rep. Lacey Hull’s, R-Houston, HB 3054 to eliminate HMO fidelity bonds and statutory deposits are not expected to draw resistance from the lawmakers. Both Sanford and Hull are House Insurance Committee members.
Committee hearings continue to be conducted with COVID-19 protocols in place, with reduced public seating and masks required for attendance. The Senate requires a negative COVID-19 test to enter the Senate Chamber.