CORPUS CHRISTI – In September of last year, county officials joined other coastal communities to speak out against a proposed Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) insurance rate of 30% after Hurricane Harvey. Prior laws kept the rate hike capped at 10%, so in August the TWIA voted to raise the rates up to that 10%.
After months of rallies held by outspoken Coastal Bend residents and county officials against a TWIA proposed insurance rate increase, Governor Greg Abbott stepped in just before the Oct. 15 deadline to delay any decisions made for or against the rate hike.
On Wednesday morning, State Rep. Todd Hunter took to the podium at the Solomon P. Ortiz Center in Corpus Christi with the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce to give an update on TWIA reforms as well as inform the community of what’s coming next.
“We were the first area to get hit and, in my opinion, we were the first to be forgotten.
“We saw all the communities coming together, and then the attention went away from us. And I tell the people in Austin, we had people living in tents on the beach not that long ago.”
Hunter introduced three bills in legislative session: one that wouldn’t allow TWIA to raise their rates, one to only allow them to only raise their rates 1% and one to allow them to raise their rates 2%.
“Well, the chairman came to me, and he said, ‘Todd, we need to do more. Let’s get your bill at zero percent rate freeze,’” Hunter said. “‘And then let’s combine it with an overview study task force of TWIA so that we can stop this continual fight on what the rates are going to be.’
“Both of us got together and we filed the same bills. His got set first, so I moved over to his.
“We won 132 to 10. That’s pretty good.”
Hunter said that when the bill progressed, TWIA had a meeting and decided to withdraw their proposed rate hike.
“It was because of your efforts coming to Austin backing us up and the coast being united, showing 132 to 10 legislative impression impact,” he continued. “The TWIA board did the right thing. They met and said, ‘We see the handwriting on the wall’ and they stopped the rates and withdrew it.
“But if we hadn’t had done that, you would have gotten the 10% or 20% rate hike. And what’s scary is nobody was telling you anything. They were just going to do it.
“So we want no rate hike for 2019. None.”
Hunter also passed House Bill 1900 which would change re-insurance. While it’s not a common term, Hunter explained it as, “when you ensure a big loss like Harvey, that insurance company goes to other insurance companies to take a piece of the liability spread the risk.
“What they do is they charge you, and it makes no common sense. They’re the ones spreading the risk for themselves, and the cost of that you pay.”
That amount adds up when dealing with a billion dollar catastrophe like Hurricane Harvey. So now the insurance industry will be paying for the liability which should decrease windstorm policyholders rates.
Another big change is the creation of a legislative task force oversight committee over TWIA to find out what the best alternative to windstorm insurance in Texas.
“Now, where do we go from here?” Hunter asked.
“In August, there’s going to be somebody that goes to TWIA and says let’s raise the rates again for 2020.
“So we need to organize. I need my chambers, my builders, my business, my realtors, my banks getting organized. As they’re going to try to hit us again, the max is 10%. But if you keep doing 10% per year, you’re getting 30% 40%. So there is going to be an effort, and we have to stop it, just like we did this one.”
Hunter also said that they’re re-instituting the Coastal Bend Task Force so they can organize for the 2021 legislative session and keep watch on TWIA board meetings.
“So the bottom line is, if you’re interested, you have to let us know,” Hunter said. “You have to let us know.
“We’re not stopping.”