Skullduggery was afoot on Monday by one powerful state Senator that would have raised insurance rates on every North Carolina family, driver, and small business. (Yes, on automobiles, homes, workers compensation, businesses, etc., etc.)
Just in case you had not heard about it, Monday was indeed quite the day. In a move reminiscent of a 2007 ploy documented here and here at Wayne's World, it was "back to the future" with an "under cover of darkness" attempt to strip the Insurance Commissioner's authority to (a) control and cap insurance rates, (b) hold public hearings, and (c) otherwise hold accountable the insurance industry and protect consumers.
So what did Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin do in response? He went public to shine light on the shenanigans, conducting an emergency press conference immediately before the Senate committee was going to rubber-stamp the hidden provision. A bevy of TV, radio, newspaper and blogosphere journalists turned out as he revealed what was afoot.Check out the news coverage first here at the Raleigh News & Observer's "Under the Dome" blog. One excerpt from that news story, appropriately titled "Goodwin Slams Senator's Attempt to Strip Insurance Commissioner of Authority (to Protect Consumers From Rate Hikes)":
"Using phrases like 'shocking' and 'irresponsible government,' Goodwin said that if passed, the bill would surely cause insurance rates for homes, vehicles and workers compensation to rise throughout the state. ... 'Working people do not need this piled on them,' he said."
Here is a link to another media source, NewsChannel 14, but scan ahead to the 1-minute mark in the accompanying video to hear about the relevant issue. WRAL-TV also had a blurb on the matter, found here at this link. Further coverage appeared in a subsequent Raleigh article.
Admittedly, the all-time best coverage of the matter was by a friend of "Wayne's World" and BlueNC, Laura Leslie, uber-reporter for WUNC public radio. Her excellent analysis of "The Mystery Measure" is here. She's the best!
But, not to be outdone, Mark Binker of the Greensboro News & Record added a similarly well-done focus on the incident here within his "What Are They Drinking?" edition. And, courtesy of the News & Record, listen in on the audiotape made at the Senator's press interview about the subject.
Meanwhile, other newspapers and pundits across the State, including in the Beaufort Observer and Civitas Review and BlueNC (both ends of the ideological spectrum, by the way), panned the attempted coup.
"Senators unintentionally sought both insurance deregulation and higher insurance rates for all North Carolinians in one fell swoop, without public input or consultation with the Department of Insurance responsible for protecting consumers," said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin at the end of the day. "What were these Senators thinking?"
But Goodwin says the public needs to watch this situation with an eagle eye, particularly the Senators' proposal to replace the Insurance Commissioner's authority with that of a seven-member panel. (Only after it was stricken out did the proponent of the measure said he had intended to only strip some of the Insurance Commissioner's authority and instead put the panel in place for 20 coastal counties. Regardless, that Senator tried his maneuver surreptitiously, under the veil of darkness and outside the scope of public input, debate, and review. That's offensive and wrong.)
"They've tried it once before and then tried it again today. To protect consumers from outrageous insurance rates and an unstable market led by unaccountable, unelected, uninformed special interests that certain Senators want deciding your insurance rates, we must watch every move certain lawmakers make and beat back any future attempts."
Many observers said that they had never seen North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner so incensed over an issue. And they agreed with his reason because it goes to the very heart of protecting consumers.
Commissioner Goodwin said it best, as quoted by the Associated Press:
"I'm the state fire marshal, too. I'm used to hearing three alarms and four alarms. I'm ringing the alarm, ladies and gentlemen."
CROSS-POSTED from a revised version over at "Wayne's World"