2007-05-03 / News

Long on disaster study panel

Dozens of families enjoyed a hearty New England breakfast at the Rotary Club's annual May Breakfast, held last Saturday. Photo by Vic Richardson Dozens of families enjoyed a hearty New England breakfast at the Rotary Club's annual May Breakfast, held last Saturday. Photo by Vic Richardson State Rep. Bruce Long (R-Middletown, Jamestown) is serving this legislative session as a member of a special House commission to study the effects of natural disasters on property insurance costs in Rhode Island.

The study panel began meeting at the beginning of the year in an ad hoc capacity. The group became a formal study commission when the House, in March, approved a resolution to establish the panel and set a deadline of March 2008 for a report and recommendations.

Following the devastation left along the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, many insurers prompted by demands by their reinsurance issuers, changed their policies, identifying many more properties than ever before as "at risk" for hurricane damage. As a result, people who live well above sea level, sometimes several miles from the shore, are facing doubledigit premium hikes, deductibles of $20,000 or more, or requirements that they purchase flood insurance or make structural changes to their homes. Insurers are dropping some homes altogether, saying they represent too big a risk.

In response to those changes, several area legislators, including Representative Long, formed the ad hoc committee to examine the matter. Following several hearings and a substantial amount of testimony from homeowners all around the state, the formal study panel was created with the intent of developing legislation to protect Rhode Island homeowners from any undue insurance costs.

The formal study commission has conducted two televised hearings since meeting with both the major insurers and the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR).

"I believe our hearings have made a difference," said Long. "As a result of the many complaints from constituents, DBR has decided to do a market study of Quincy Mutual.

"Homeowners in my district are among those around the state who are facing serious insurance problems and enormous premium increases as a result of decisions by companies that may not be justified," said Long. "I look forward to the work of this study commission because I believe we can find a way to bring some sanity to this issue and address the fears and concerns of so many of our state's residents about this insurance situation."

Representative Long is one of the 15 members of the study panel.

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