New insurance commissioners receive collision industry support

Jan. 1, 2020
Three new state insurance commissioners were elected to office in November, and there will likely be more new regulators next year as more than half the states elected new governors. Two of the new commissioners - California's Dave Jones and Georgia'
Three new state insurance commissioners were elected to office in November, and there will likely be more new regulators next year as more than half the states elected new governors. Two of the new commissioners – California's Dave Jones and Georgia's Ralph Hudgens – received collision industry endorsements, and associations in those states hope to build strong working relationships with the new insurance chiefs.

There were four commissioner slots up for grabs on Election Day. In Kansas, voters returned Republican Sandy Praeger to the commissioner's office for another term, while in Oklahoma, Democratic commissioner Kim Holland was unseated by Republican John Doak. Doak has an insurance industry background, having started his own Farmer's Insurance Agency branch in Tulsa in the 1980s, then working as an executive at Marsh, Aon Risk Services, HNI and Ascension Insurance.

Doak ran on a largely pro-business/anti-regulation platform, and focused on his opposition to the federal health care reform bill during the campaign. Georgia Republican Hudgens took similar positions, although he was more pragmatic on health reform. The Georgia Collision Industry Association (GCIA) endorsed Hudgens after meeting with five of the candidates for the post earlier this year.

"Basically, Hudgens understands our industry better than any of the other candidates did," says GCIA executive director Howard Batchelor. "He also had more experience in government. We felt he was the best fit, and hopefully we'll have an opportunity to build a relationship with him."

Hudgens is a former state senator and business owner, and formerly worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the late 1980s.

According to Batchelor, the GCIA had been working closely with the insurance department and former commissioner John Oxendine to make rules changes to the existing regulations that would address aftermarket parts and paint and material caps. Those changes are currently awaiting a public hearing. "We want to bring Ralph Hudgens up to speed on what we've already accomplished, and what the path forward is going to be," Batchelor says.

In California, Democratic state assemblyman Dave Jones will replace Republican Steve Poizner. Jones, part of a wave of down-ticket Democrats swept into office in that state, has met several times with the collision associations in California, and introduced industry-friendly legislation during his time as an assemblyman.

"He understands the collision industry, and he's been out to shops," says Allen Wood, executive director at the Collision Repair Association of California (CRA). "He's a sharp guy, he's very concerned about he issues, and seems really willing to step up and do what's right for the consumer. We think we'll see some real changes in the way the Department of Insurance does business."

"We're very optimistic that he can help us in a couple of areas that we weren't really able to achieve in the last administration," says David McClune, executive director of the California Autobody Association (CAA). "As soon as he takes office in January, we plan to sit down with him and go over some things we want him to look into."

 

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That could include aftermarket parts, steering, and other issues. Democrats now control the governorship and legislature in California, and McClune says he thinks it may be easier to pass some legislation during the next session as well. "Having a Republican governor and a Democratic assembly, it was difficult to get things passed," McClune says.

There was one other insurance department change this month – Connecticut commissioner Thomas Sullivan resigned just prior to the election to take a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Although the Auto Body Association of Connecticut had called for his firing because of his failure to pursue misconduct allegations against insurers involving collision claims, it was his unpopular decision to allow Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to raise their health insurance rates by 46.9 percent that caused the largest outcry from consumer groups.

Connecticut recently elected a new Democratic governor, Dannel Mallow, who will appoint a new commissioner in 2011. In the meantime, the agency's director of consumer services, Barbara Spear, will serve as acting commissioner.

Repairers and insurers can expect to see other new faces next year, as well. More than half of the states elected new governors, and many of those new governors hail from a different party than their predecessors. States with appointed insurance commissioners will likely have new insurance chiefs after January.

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