SPECIAL SESSION 2020: Democrat-backed car insurance bills face rocky road

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A Louisiana legislator has drafted bills that would block car insurance companies from basing rates on gender, marital status or credit score.

The state House is set to introduce state Rep. Ted James’ bills Tuesday. But the measures’ path beyond that remains unclear, amid concerns that they don’t follow the Republican-led Legislature’s guidelines for the ongoing 30-day special session.

“They wrote the call so narrowly tailored that we’re not really going to address whether or not we can actually reduce rates,” the Baton Rouge Democrat told BRProud.com in an interview Monday.

The 41-item call largely fits the priorities of House and Senate Republican leaders, many of whom favor a different plan: putting more car crash lawsuits before juries, rather than resorting to costly settlements. Supporters suggest this idea would save car insurance companies money — savings they could pass onto drivers.

James questions whether insurers would make that trickle-down theory reality.

“The tort reform bills that everybody is kicking and screaming about do nothing to mandate that rates are reduced,” he said. “It only helps the insurance company. It does nothing to help the consumer.”

Louisiana drivers pay the second-highest car insurance premiums, on average, after Michigan. These rates are often higher for single women with low credit scores. (Widowed drivers also average higher rates, as insurers may classify them as single.) Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has defended actuarial data that shows certain demographics being involved in more car crashes, attributing to higher premiums.

“The commissioner didn’t use the word ‘discriminate,’ but that’s exactly what he’s doing,” James said.

The ongoing special session must end by June 30 at 6 p.m. James says if his bills are declared not germane to the predetermined call, he may reintroduce them during a possible fall special session.

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