Consumer Groups Urge Texas Governor to Appoint New Insurance Commissioner

February 17, 2005

Two Texas consumer organizations—the Center for Economic Justice (CEJ) and Texas Watch—announced they are calling on Gov. Rick Perry to appoint a new insurance commissioner to replace José Montemayor who asked in January not to be reappointed to a new term.

“By not appointing a new insurance commissioner for the Senate to question and confirm and by allowing the lame-duck and anti-consumer José Montemayor to continue during the 2005 legislative session, Governor Perry is undermining the Legislature’s ability to work on insurance issues,” stated Birny Birnbaum, executive director of CEJ.

“Consumers and lawmakers deserve to have a commissioner who will be accountable once the legislative session is over,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch. “It is only fair for us to have a commissioner who will follow through on the promises made during the legislative session.”

The groups said that Texas needs an insurance commissioner who meets the following criteria:

1. A commissioner who will be around after the Legislative session to keep promises made during the session;
2. A commissioner who has credibility with the Legislature and consumers;
3. A commissioner who will go through a confirmation hearing and be confirmed by the Senate;
4. A commissioner dedicated to balancing the interests of consumers and insurers.

Birnbaum added, “It makes no sense for a lame-duck Commissioner to be representing the insurance department and Governor Perry during this legislative session. Governor Perry should respect the role of the Legislature to question and confirm his appointment for insurance commissioner. Perry should not wait until the Legislature is out of session before he appoints Montemayor’s replacement simply to avoid a confirmation hearing on the appointment.”

“The governor should appoint a new commissioner now,” Winslow said. “During this legislative session, lawmakers need to work directly with the insurance commissioner who will be at the helm after the session to carry through on his or her promises to the Legislature.”

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