La. Gov. Wraps up Calif. Trip with Plea to Insurance Executives

February 2, 2007

Insurance executives are growing more interested in doing business in Louisiana because of recent moves by the Florida Legislature that the industry considers government meddling, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said recently.

Blanco was in southern California to give a speech to the country’s largest association of insurance companies, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Blanco used the platform to argue that Louisiana’s coastal properties are now far more able to withstand hurricanes – because of levee repairs and reforms, new construction regulations and federal money being used to halt coastal erosion – than they were before the 2005 hurricanes.

Her goal: persuade insurers to write more homeowners and commercial property insurance in Louisiana. Insurers have been leery of writing policies in south Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina, reducing competition and driving up insurance costs.

“I think the industry was listening even more closely because of what Florida has done,” Blanco said in a telephone interview from the airport in Palm Springs, Calif.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist last week approved a new law aimed at forcing property insurance rates down. Provisions of the law are unpopular among insurers, who see them as government intrusions that will backfire and eventually drive rates farther up.

Some companies expected to flee the Florida market could begin writing policies in Louisiana instead, according to Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, who also spoke to the insurance trade group in California.

Donelon said he’s targeting and contacting about a dozen insurers and trying to persuade them to begin doing business in Louisiana or begin writing more policies here.

Donelon said he told the insurance executives that they should “consider seriously, as they exit the Florida market, getting into the Louisiana market.”

Some lawmakers have said the governor should call a special legislative session to deal with insurance matters, but Blanco said she has no such plans. She said improvements to the state’s insurance laws can be made in the regular legislative session that begins in April.

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