North Dakota Insurance Candidate Wants “Revolving Door” Legislation

September 26, 2008

Rep. Jasper Schneider, D-Fargo, is proposing to bar any state insurance commissioner who resigns from the job voluntarily from working in the insurance industry for one year afterward. He plans to file the bill draft in December.

The lawmaker and Democratic candidate for North Dakota insurance commissioner said a commissioner should not be focusing on another job in the industry while holding office.

“We’ve got a lot of important insurance issues here in the state, and I think it’s important that the next insurance commissioner be there for the full four years,” Schneider said Wednesday at a news conference.

Republican Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm, who was appointed to the office last year after Jim Poolman quit early, agrees with the idea, but not necessarily the legislation.

“I love doing this job and I want to continue it for four more years. I absolutely make that pledge,” Hamm said Wednesday. “But when I look at the details, I can’t come to any conclusion other than this bill is all about political theater rather than well-thought public policy.”

Hamm said the 40-word proposal fails to address enforcement of the law. “Without that, this thing is just a paper tiger. What’s the point of it?” he said.

Schneider said it’s common for bills to be introduced without enforcement details.

“I never thought it would just go forward without any teeth. That’s why it’s a bill draft,” Schneider said. “I imagine the final version will look something different than the draft.”

Schneider said 35 states have so-called “revolving door” legislation, including Montana and South Dakota. Violating the South Dakota law is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Poolman resigned as insurance commissioner 16 months before his term expired to establish a private consulting firm. Gov. John Hoeven appointed Hamm to finish Poolman’s term.

“Jim’s a friend of mine. I think by and large he did a good job as insurance commissioner,” Schneider said of Poolman. “I don’t agree with his decision to leave his term early, especially to go work in the industry. I think that’s why this issue is here today.”

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