Lawmakers Voice Concerns Over AG's Insurance Proposal

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's proposed insurance legislation faces a tough battle at the state capitol. Last week, the AG announced his plan to force State Farm to resume writing new homeowner policies in Mississippi, which includes controversial action from state lawmakers.

"I haven't had a single person tell me that's a good idea, not a single one," Senate Insurance Chairman Dean Kirby said.

The AG is asking the state to require companies selling auto insurance to also offer homeowner policies statewide, if they sell them in other states. Kirby believes the proposal would do more harm than good to the state's already unstable insurance market.

"When you start forcing private companies to do anything, their first move is to shut down, possibly leave the state and we don't need that."

Hood says his plan is modeled after legislation recently passed in Florida. He even drafted amendements for insurance bills already working their way through the legislature.

"We've been working on a bill for over a year to help the people of Mississippi, and we're going to stick with that bill as much as we can," Kirby said.

While Senator Kirby says there's no way he'll consider adding Hood's proposal to any pending legislation, key house members say they'll at least consider it as the bills head to conference for a compromise.

"My opinion is we'll continue to listen to all ideas throughout the conference process," House Insurance Chairman Rep. Mark Formby of Picayune said.

But Formby, who just received a copy of Hood's request, said he does have concerns.

"Everyone keeps saying, 'We want to be like Florida.' If we become like Florida, we will have one insurance company. It will be the state of Mississippi, and it will be unaffordable," Formby said.

Insurance Commissioner George Dale also opposes Hood's proposal, warning it could push more companies away from the state.

State Farm stopped writing new homeowner policies in Mississippi last friday, blaming the state's legal and political environment post-Katrina.

By Wendy Suares