Sen. Sununu Updates N.H. Agents on Congress

April 14, 2004

U.S. Senator John Sununu (R-N.H.) told independent agents that while prospects for asbestos reform are not bright, there is a good chance class action reform may emerge from this Congress.

He also said that Rep. Mike Oxley’s insurance regulation proposal could possibly make it through the House but it is unlikely to see Senate action this session.

“Frankly, I don’t see a lot happening leading up to the election,” the senator told members of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of N.H.

“Class action is one area with the greatest potential to get something done in tort reform,” he said, adding that he hoped a success on class action reform might create momentum for reforms in other tort areas including asbestos.

However, he is pessimistic about the prospects of asbestos relief passing “because opponents of the bill will never be happy with the amount” of funding in the bill.

Sununu said he tends to favor the Oxley approach of creating national standards in insurance regulation “without creating a Washington bureaucracy,” a position he said was the same as that held by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

“It’s really a question of economics” and of driving innovation in the industry to better meet the needs of individuals. “Independent agents understand this better than anyone,” he said.

For Sununu, eliminating government regulation of insurance prices “is the most important” step in any reform of insurance regulation. “I feel passionately that having the government setting prices just doesn’t work in all cases,” said the state’s junior senator in Washington, who has called for Senate hearings on the issue. The engineer-turned-politician said that he wants to proceed carefully with any changes mindful of the “law of unintended consequences.”

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