Legislature: Committee rejects governor-backed bills addressing auto insurance rates

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – A Louisiana Senate committee on Wednesday refused to advance three bills supported by Gov. John Bel Edwards meant to prevent auto insurance companies from basing rates on factors other than the policyholder’s driving record.

The unsuccessful bills by Sen. Jay Luneau, an Alexandria Democrat, sought to prevent setting insurance rates based on gender, credit score and status as a widow or widower. He portrayed the measures as potentially leading to lower auto insurance rates, which in Louisiana are among the highest in the country.

“If we continue to let insurance companies do whatever they want, we’ll never get our rates down,” Luneau said.

But opponents, including Republican Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon, said the changes would only shift costs to other drivers, not lower the average rates. He said insurance companies don’t charge higher rates to widows or widowers because they are widows or widowers, but because they are single and single people drive more.

Donelon portrayed the bills as a distraction from tort reform, which is many Republican lawmakers’ top priority for the session. “Tort reform” refers to changes to the state’s legal system which supporters say could lead to lower auto insurance rates among other benefits.

“I would urge you not to take the bait,” Donelon said to the legislators on the committee.

Donelon supported, and the committee approved, a bill that would prevent insurers from raising rates on deployed service members returning home because they had an interruption of coverage.

“He apparently likes veterans more than he likes women or poor people,” Luneau said of Donelon with a laugh.