Md. Legislative Session at Halfway Point

February 21, 2003

The 2003 Maryland legislative session is at the halfway point, with a crop of insurance-related bills still working their way through the process, including legislation on no pay/no play, insurers’ use of credit, motor vehicle salvage, workers’ compensation benefits, and red-light cameras.

“With the 2003 Maryland legislative session already half over, there are still a lot of insurance issues to be settled,” Donald Cleasby, assistant vice president and assistant general counsel for the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII), said.

Some of the most important bills include:

No pay/no play. S.B. 443 would prohibit an uninsured driver from recovering noneconomic damages from an insured driver unless the insured driver was driving while drunk, drugged, recklessly or aggressively. The NAII is taking the lead in testifying in support of this legislation. “No pay/no play is a matter of fairness, and has proven to be an effective means of reducing the number of uninsured drivers on a state’s roads,” Cleasby said. A House counterpart, H.B. 742, is not yet scheduled for hearing.

Credit-based insurance scores. Legislators recently introduced S.B. 444, which completely prohibits the use of credit information in the underwriting or rating of homeowners or automobile insurance. The bill has not been scheduled for hearing, but will be strongly opposed by NAII, Cleasby noted.

Claims and salvage. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee recently heard S.B. 90, which requires a “rebuilt salvage” title on any totaled vehicle with repair costs equal to or less than its fair market value prior to the accident. NAII testified against this legislation. “The head of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration spoke in favor of the bill which had a lot of sway with the Committee,” Cleasby added. NAII is supporting an amendment that would require a “rebuilt salvage” title only if the cost to repair equaled or exceeded 80 percent of the vehicle’s fair market value prior to the damage. The House counterpart, H.B. 728, has a March 4 hearing.

Workers’ compensation coverage. A number of workers’ compensation bills will be heard next week in the House Economic Matters Committee, including:

·H.B. 416, which creates a presumption of occupational disease for law enforcement, correctional services and public safety personnel;

·H.B. 418, which exempts the Injured Workers Insurance Fund from the excessive premium growth component of the risk-based capital formula;

·H.B. 426, which requires the General Assembly to set fees for legal services;

·H.B. 495, which authorizes the Workers’ Compensation Commission to adopt vocational rehabilitation services regulations which would include provisions regulating fees;

·H.B. 577, which prohibits termination of total temporary disability benefits without a written order from the Workers’ Compensation Commission;

·H.B. 690, which requires a workers’ compensation insurer to continue to pay a surviving spouse who is wholly dependent at the time of the worker’s death if he or she subsequently becomes partially self supporting; and

·H.B. 781, which states that a health care provider who volunteers in a hospital doing a catastrophic health emergency is a covered worker and prohibits workers’ compensation carriers from denying these claims absent a declaration of war.

“NAII will be reviewing all of this legislation with member companies to determine our position on this legislation,” Cleasby said.

Red-light cameras. Maryland was one of the first states to pass a law permitting the use of red-light cameras to detect drivers who run red lights. Now, several bills threaten the law: H.B. 587, which calls for a task force to study the use of traffic control signals and speed monitoring systems; H.B. 571 and S.B. 193, which would prohibit the activation of red-light cameras if a car is travelling below a certain speed as it goes through the intersection; and S.B. 246, which repeals the red-light camera law except in school zones, railroad crossings or when a law enforcement official is physically present at the intersection.

However, H.B. 617 calls for an increase in penalties for drivers found in violation because of a red light camera.

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