IIABA Notes Legislative Agenda for New Year

January 26, 2004

With the start of the New Year and the beginning of a new session of Congress only a few weeks away, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA) is rolling out its legislative agenda for 2004.

Top issues for the Big “I” will include modernizing insurance regulation, such as agent licensing reform; reforming the tax treatment of intangible assets; pushing tort reform legislation, such as medical liability reform and class action reform; advocating passage of a flood insurance reform bill; and advocating for fair and reasonable regulations on the “Do Not Call/Fax/Spam” laws.

“With 2004 being an election year, we believe our elected officials will be paying close attention to the needs of Main Street America,” IIABA CEO Robert A. Rusbuldt said. “We will work to further the legislative agenda of insurance consumers and independent agents and brokers, as well as the entire insurance industry.”

In 2004, IIABA will continue its push for a five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which has been passed by the House and awaits action in the Senate. This legislation also would target the worst repetitive flood-loss properties and increase funding for flood-mitigation steps.

“Reform and long-term reauthorization of the flood insurance program is absolutely vital,” IIABA Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs Maria L. Berthoud said. “Just as important is an effort by FEMA to shift more liability from ‘Write Your Own’ insurance companies to independent agents, and to change the status of flood agents from agents to brokers. IIABA will work against this ill-conceived and onerous proposed regulation that would prove detrimental to the National Flood Insurance Program.”

IIABA also believes reform of the state regulatory system is needed. The Big “I” opposes optional or mandatory federal regulation of insurance and instead advocates a pragmatic, middle-ground approach. Such a solution would keep regulation in the hands of the states while streamlining the system and fostering uniformity through federal standards.

“Federal standards, not top-down regulation, are the best solution to reform and modernize the insurance regulatory system,” Berthoud said. “This type of reform will not only benefit the insurance industry, but also, and most importantly, the consumers our industry serves.”

Tort reform also remains a vital issue for IIABA, which will continue to push for legislation that will reduce frivolous lawsuits while preserving the rights to legal redress of those with legitimate grievances. The Big “I” will advocate asbestos litigation reform, as well as medical and legal liability reforms.

“In the current asbestos litigation environment, Congress must act to ensure that those truly deserving of financial assistance receive it, which cannot happen if undeserving litigants siphon resources away from them,” Berthoud said.

Additionally, IIABA seeks much-needed reforms to address a discrepancy between marketplace realities and the tax code’s treatment of intangible assets. Current law requires these assets to be written off over 15 years, but business experience shows that intangible assets, such as customer lists, have a shelf life of approximately five years. With a quicker depreciation schedule, small businesses will have more cash to reinvest in their operations.

“When existing laws conflict with the realities of the marketplace, it is imperative that the laws are adjusted to reflect those realities,” Rusbuldt says. “This necessary reform will benefit independent agents and brokers, as well as all small businesses with intangible assets. We will work diligently to achieve this reform in 2004.”

Other issues high on IIABA’s legislative list for 2004 will include:

Streamlining agent licensing to mandate reciprocity in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Clarifying do-not-call, do-not-fax and anti-SPAM legislation so businesses and professional associations are not unfairly targeted by preventing them from communicating with their customers or members who have elected to receive these communications.

Maintaining adequate funding for the federal crop insurance program and ensuring that local, state-licensed insurance agents remain the primary sales force for crop insurance.

Guaranteeing reasonable usage of insurance credit scoring, in balanced and consumer-friendly ways, as a means of risk-assessment.

Addressing continued incremental health care reforms that will arise in Congress this year.

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