Texas Storm Insurance Special Session Possibility

By WILL WEISSERT | June 3, 2013

Gov. Rick Perry said Friday he may add reshaping the troubled Texas Windstorm Insurance Association to a special legislative session he’s already convened on redistricting, but wouldn’t yet say for sure whether he’ll give lawmakers more to do.

Perry called the Legislature back immediately after its 140-day regular session ended Monday, giving legislators 30 extra days to approve new electoral district voting maps – and any other item of his choosing. He said it was still “a little premature” to be adding items to the agenda, but when asked specifically whether the agency known as TWIA could be one of them, answered “it’s certainly possible.”

The governor said it was an issue “we’ve spent a lot of time working on and trying to find a solution to. It’s a complex issue as diverse as the state is with the huge exposure that we have along the Gulf Coast.”

TWIA is a nonprofit, state-supervised insurer of last resort for people who can’t get private property insurance in 14 coastal counties and part of Harris County, which includes Houston.

It is subsidized with mandatory dues from for-profit insurance companies, but has faced serious financial trouble for years. After Hurricane Ike in 2008, there were numerous allegations of collusion between claims adjusters and the association. More than 1,900 policyholders sued the association for failing to pay for legitimate damages.

Perry said he likely won’t add items without first working with lawmakers to ensure there’s a possibility they will actually pass legislation on them.

“We want to be relatively assured we’re going to be successful,” he said. “That’s not to guarantee success, but there’s a host of issues, and I would suggest to you that there’s a long list of wants we try to distil down to the things that truly are needed in the state.”

He added: “TWIA is one of those needs, frankly, that we have in this state.”

Those comments were especially poignant since they came as Perry traveled to a remote terminal at Austin’s airport for his annual tour of an emergency preparedness showcase featuring planes, choppers, boats, mobile hospitals, and above all, manpower from dozens of agencies the state deploys during natural disasters.

Perry noted that the across-the-board federal spending cuts may prompt furloughs among the Texas National Guard and others, but said the state “will be ready for whatever mother nature throws at us.”

The Atlantic Ocean hurricane season begins Saturday and runs through November. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts between 13 and 20 named Atlantic storms. Seven to 11 will strengthen into hurricanes and three to six that become major hurricanes.

When pressed by reporters after the event, Perry clarified that he has yet to commit to more items for the special legislative session because he’s still making decisions on some bills that passed during the regular one.

“We’re just working our way through these pieces of legislation,” he said. “There may be something, whether it’s on the budget or whether it’s another piece of legislation that ends up being vetoed or line-item vetoed that we want to put back on the call and say `hey, we didn’t agree with this, let’s find a way to fix it.”‘

Still, Sen. Craig Estes, a Wichita Falls Republican who also toured Friday’s showcase, was already making jokes about more work coming for him and his colleagues. He told Perry he was “looking forward to spending a lot of quality time with you over the summer.”

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