When the empire strikes back, what does an Insurance Commissioner dedicated to public transparency do?


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?"

Fortunately due to Insurance Commissioner Goodwin's keen eye and resolute call to arms, Senators removed the "special provision" by late afternoon.

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.

Coverage in the Richmond County Daily Journal continued that drumbeat here and again with the editorial "Let Goodwin Do His Job."

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"

Comments

They will be coming at you again

and again and again and again.

Would that all public officials had your willingness to conduct their business with full view in the public eye.

I'm proud to know you.

Good Job, Wayne

You wouldn't normally expect this kind of crap from someone in the Democratic Party. But Mr. Basnight is apparently more interested in having homeowners across the state subsidize insurance for his wealthy beachfront neighbors. Kind of like we subsidize roads for the tourists that visit those beachfront homes, at the expense of the rest of the state.

Meanwhile, NC has among the lowest auto insurance rates in the nation. It's good to know who is on the side of NC consumers here. Thank you Wayne - keep up the good work.

Sharp response

Commissioner Wayne Goodwin reacted quickly and astutely to the attempt to strip his powers in the budget bill. Thankfully, the offending provision has been removed.

The "devil is in the details" was never more true than in this crafty move to weaken the administrative side of government by the legislative side, and all outside of the purview of the public.

This was not a proud moment in North Carolina politics.

www.charlesmalonencsenate.com

Charles Malone