A day after the 2014 midterm elections gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, wider control of the House and major gains in state races across the nation, lobbyists for the property/casualty insurance industry were scrambling to assess the impact and what comes next.
Some celebrated the Republican ascendance as something that could help reduce gridlock. Others hoped the changes would lead to progress on a bid to tweak federal regulation of insurers so it better addresses the industry’s needs. There was also a big call to the lame duck Congress to tackle major P/C industry priorities before the end of 2014, particularly reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) before it expires on Dec. 31.
Despite some reports that leaders in the Senate and House assured industry lobbyists that a renewal will come through by mid-December, groups such as the American Insurance Association weren’t taking any chances in the post-election environment.
“Yesterday’s election results will undoubtedly lead to a new set of priorities in the next Congress, but the fact remains that the current Congress has unfinished business: the long-term reauthorization of [TRIA],” Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the AIA, said in a statement.
TRIA renewal is just one of three major bills P/C insurers hope the lame duck session will take up and pass, Nat Weinecke, senior vice president of federal government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told Carrier Management via email.
“Before looking at the next Congress, we have three bills to pass in this lame duck session: TRIA, Insurance Capital Standards and NARAB II [National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers],” Weinecke noted.
He said the industry supports the Senate TRIA renewal and is opposed to some who back six-month renewal to allow for making big longer-term changes to the federal reinsurance program. He noted that the Senate and House passed identical Insurance Capital Standards bills and that observers expect a final bill to pass. PCI also supports NARAB II, which is attached to TRIA and would create a permanent program rather than one that sunsets in two years, he said.
If those issues can be taken care of, Weinecke said he expects the next Republican-led Congress to offer “renewed scrutiny” to the Dodd-Frank Act. Passed after the 2008 economic collapse, the law, in part, placed federal regulatory scrutiny over insurers such as AIG that are deemed “too big to fail.”
Jimi Grande, senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the new Congress will compromise and collaborate more than they have in the last few years on issues including Dodd-Frank.
“You are going to see a Senate that has Democrats and Republicans able to work together on some of the Dodd-Frank issues and other issues that face the industry, like some of the international standard setting that we’re seeing going on right now,” Grande told Carrier Management.
But, he cautioned, there likely won’t be drastic changes.
“There are going to be people who come back and say, ‘Let’s repeal Dodd-Frank.’ Nobody who has any political sense thinks they are going to repeal Dodd-Frank,” Grande said. “However, there are a number of agencies and provisions you could find bipartisan support for fixing. Even [former Massachusetts U.S. Rep.] Barney Frank and [former Connecticut U.S. Sen.] Chris Dodd will tell you there are aspects that could be improved upon.”
“In the Senate, we are more likely to see cooler heads prevail and bipartisanship potentially emerge,” Grande added.
Beyond the chance to better address P/C issues at the federal level, this election will bring many changes at the state regulatory level, Neil Alldredge, NAMIC’s senior vice president of state and policy affairs, said in a Carrier Management interview.
“We are going to have a fair amount of change among the insurance commissioner ranks—and not just in states that have new governors,” Alldredge said. “This happens when you have an election. People in insurance commissioner jobs may decide it is just time to move on, and by the time we sort all of this out we will wind up with a fair amount of change.”