State Rep. Todd Hunter: Windstorm momentum shifting a little at a time
Corpus Christi Caller Times
By Rick Spruill
Posted July 9, 2013 at 7:45 a.m.
PORT ARANSAS – Coastal leaders and lawmakers may not have achieved sweeping
windstorm insurance reform this session in Austin, but they did put up a
good defense in working toward a long-term solution, state Rep. Todd Hunter
During an informal meeting before about 100 people at the Pioneer RV Resort
hosted by the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce, Hunter reviewed lawmaker
efforts related to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, whose position as chairman of the House Calendars
Committee makes his support for any windstorm legislation a must-have, took
to the offensive, calling on the Coastal Windstorm Task Force to reorganize
for the interim period, when lawmakers craft the framework for the next
“We don’t have the numbers in the Legislature, compared to our opposition,”
Hunter said. “But sometimes, seniority matters. Seniority can stop bad
things from happening.”
Citing windstorm reform as a primary motive, Hunter said after the meeting
he intends to again run in 2014 for his seat in the 32nd District and hopes
to stay on as Calendars Chairman for the 84th regular session.
Hunter said energy was spent blocking legislation.
“We worked together to kill more of what was bad than advance what was
good,” Hunter said before heading back to Austin to continue with a second
Among the legislation deemed bad for coastal communities was a bill from
state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, that sought to compel private insurance
carriers to again write wind and hailstorm policies in greater numbers in 14
counties along the coast.
Called assigned risk, the plan would dismantle the association in favor of a
managed transition to private insurance rates.
The bill reflected the views of some that abolishing the association, and
its feeble funding mechanisms and lackluster customer service model in favor
of assigned risk, is the most viable option for creating a robust insurance
net for coastal property owners.
That bill, in particular, forced Hunter and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa,
D-McAllen, into a defensive posture, leaving little time to advance bills of
their own that sought to strengthen the way the association, which carries
about $82 billion in insured liabilities, raises money to fund storm claims.
Hunter said he asked task force members to look into long-term fundraising
tools such as federal “century bonds” – ultra-low interest bonds with a
100-year maturation date offered to states with strong credit ratings and
surging economies – as a way to stabilize the association’s volatile funding
Other reform topics will include dealing with the way the state certifies
engineers to conduct windstorm inspections and the association’s windstorm
alternative certification waiver program that lawmakers this session voted
to sunset by 2015.
The change potentially leaves thousands of coastal residents with no
windstorm insurance coverage because their homes have never been formally
certified as insurable under windstorm standards.
Hunter said a recent state attorney general opinion that Texas is not
legally obligated to pay association claims is a lawyer’s fight, not one for
“The opinion means only that any area of the state – not just the coast – is
not going to get insured losses paid, according to the Texas Constitution,”
Hunter said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t go to the state if disaster
Hunter said that instead of talking about what Texas has not provided under
law, lawmakers should look at what has been provided: assessments on
insurance companies to help the association recover losses suffered in the
wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
A Texas statute, until being repealed in 2009, allowed for hundreds of
millions in assessments to help pay windstorm claims. Those assessments were
only partially levied by the association’s board of directors, the group
empowered to seek them, in the weeks after Ike, and have not been revisited.
Hunter reminded the group, which included officials from Nueces, Aransas,
San Patricio, Kleberg and Calhoun counties, that the windstorm board “owes
it to the coastline” to seek the assessments.
The association has the ability to raise about $3.35 billion – assuming a
$500 million bond anticipation note is approved by new Insurance
Commissioner Julia Rathgeber – to pay claims from storms this year and next,
Windstorm Task Force Chairman Charlie Zahn said.
The funding is enough to cover a 300-year storm in the Coastal Bend and a
60-year storm in developed areas such as Galveston, he said.
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