March 20, 2009

From the desk of Rep. Allen Vaught

Bills Filed for the 81st Legislative Session

The deadline to file most bills in both the House and the Senate was this past Friday the 13th, the 60th day of the legislative session. Over 600 bills were filed on the final day as legislators struggled to complete their legislative agenda, hoping that something was not forgotten or overlooked. Over 4,600 bills were filed in the House and over 2,400 were filed in the Senate.

I filed six bills on the last day and thirty-eight in total. Some of the bills I filed were ideas from teachers’ groups, law enforcement, our military personnel and veterans, and others. However, the bulk of the bills came directly from conversations with my constituents over the past couple of years.

In the next few articles, I would like to talk about some of the bills I filed and why I think they would benefit this district if passed into law.

Insurance Reform

Insurance reform is by far one of the biggest issues and concerns brought to my attention since I have been in office, so I filed several bills that seek to address this issue.

Our current system in the insurance market, known as “file and use” allows companies to immediately implement a new rate once it is filed with the Texas Department of Insurance. House Bill (HB) 1609 would require insurance companies to submit their rates for prior approval to the Insurance Commissioner if they have a Complaint Index that is 50% higher than the statewide average. The Texas Department of Insurance compiles a Complaint Index that allows consumers to easily compare the ratio of justified consumer complaints against particular insurance companies. This bill would ensure that companies with a track record of justified complaints are scrutinized more closely before they raise rates again on consumers.

Additionally, I have filed HB 4563 which would mandate that automobile insurance companies cannot use the occupation or educational level of a person insured as a factor in underwriting or rating their coverage. Currently, auto insurance companies divide consumers into several categories and subcategories, including occupation and education, in order to determine their rate. There is no limit on the number of sub categories a person can fit into, and therefore the shared risk of driving (the point of insurance) is negated. Furthermore, companies do not give consumers information on which subcategories they fit into which makes it difficult for consumers to try and lower their rates.

In looking at the bigger picture and where ultimately most of the decisions and power lie, I am a joint-author of HB 173 which would make the Insurance Commissioner an elected position and subject to the voters of Texas. We already elect the Agriculture Commissioner and the Railroad Commissioner among others, yet many of the decisions made daily by the Insurance Commissioner affect Texans to greater degree. I believe we should have the right to hold the commissioner accountable to ensure a fair insurance marketplace and to protect consumers.

Finally, I have filed HB 2010 which would require insurance companies to adequately notify consumers of changes in their policy. My hope is that these bills among others filed by my colleagues in the House and friends in the Senate will protect consumers and protect Texans during these tough economic times. While Texans currently pay some of the highest insurance rates in the country, we cannot afford for this to continue.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas regarding the bills I have filed for the 81st legislative session. Keep in mind that these are the bills as introduced and that details are subject to change as part of the legislative process. Please email my office at with the subject line 81st Legislative Session Bills.

As always, please feel free to contact my office at (214) 370-8305 with any questions regarding these or other state issues. I look forward to hearing from you.