Head-scratching news you can use

First up, the Clarion Ledger reports Funding for Coast hurricane evacuation highway lacking:

A proposal to build a hurricane evacuation highway on the Mississippi Coast has been shelved because of a lack of funding, a transportation official says.

Next, two hurricane-related insurance articles from the Sun Herald starting with USAA says company still writing policies on Coast – “But riskiest customers being dropped”:

Some USAA policyholders are under the impression that the insurance company is no longer offering wind coverage in the three Coast counties, but a company spokesman said Friday that is not true…

The company also is retaining wind coverage already included in 1,200 existing policies in the six South Mississippi counties. Berry was unable to say Friday how many of those policies are in the three Coast counties…Chaney said MID has no authority to prohibit insurance companies from establishing coverage boundaries. Other major carriers have withdrawn coverage from waterfront areas, forcing policyholders into the state wind pool, insurer of last resort for South Mississippians.

Last, but certainly no less newsworthy, 3 Coast insurance bills alive at Capitol:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, insurers’ denials of storm-damage claims, rising premiums and insurance companies pulling out of South Mississippi made news. Since then, Coast lawmakers have been pushing for a number of changes to Mississippi insurance law.

Coast-backed insurance measures have often died in the Senate Insurance Committee…Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis…said…“It appears that no insurance reforms will be given consideration under our current Senate Insurance Committee chairman.”

Now, summarizing the news you can use: (1) the state has no money for an alternate evacuation route; (2) a private insurer can cheery pick coverage areas and drop its high-risk policies on the state’s tab because MID lacks the authority to establish coverage boundaries but has money to pay the tab; and (3) the Legislature isn’t going to pass regulations to reduce the tab and apply the savings to funding a more efficient evacuation route.

If that doesn’t make you scratch your head, the Sun Herald story lists and links the three bills still alive:

  • House Bill 203, which in civil actions puts the burden of proof on insurers to prove a claim isn’t covered under an “all perils” policy. The bill requires the company to provide a “preponderance of evidence” to support the denial. Rep. Brandon Jones, D-Pascagoula, sponsored the measure, which was referred to the House’s Insurance and Judiciary A committees, and cleared both.
  • House Bill 783, which includes a version of the “Policyholders Bill of Rights” — a measure filed annually by several Coast lawmakers that includes a burden-of-proof provision similar to House Bill 203. It also prevents an insurance company from treating a policyholder differently from others in the same situation when the company is evaluating a claim. The bill also requires written notification 30 days in advance when the company intends to raise premiums by 10 percent or more.
  • House Bill 1199 creates the Mississippi Hurricane Damage Mitigation Coordinating Council, which would be responsible for “developing and implementing a comprehensive and coordinated approach for hurricane damage mitigation.”

In an election year, at least one of these is likely to pass. Sorry to say, I don’t expect it to be the Policyholders Bill of Rights – not that it doesn’t merit passage but the “rule” is “don’t ever try to teach a pig to sing, it frustrates you and makes the pig mad”.

IMO, the most likely to pass is HB1199 because “mitigation” is a money-making proposition. Scratching yet?

One thought on “Head-scratching news you can use”

  1. Don’t be fooled by the practice of calling every road project an evacuation route in order to appeal for federal funding. The only feasible new 15 was not going to get anyone very far. It would cut through part of northern Jackson County to connect to Highway 57, which is the real evacuation route. A real new evacuation route would have to cut through miles of DeSoto National Forest and would be very costly for a project with no significant public support from anyone except the contractors and developers who would benefit from it. MDOT backed off because the current residents of Latimer and Larue opposed the project because they don’t want more development.

    MDOT already rerouted and 4-laned 67 from Biloxi and 4-laned 605 from Gulfport as evacuation routes although they are just two new routes to reach gridlock on Highway 49. The larger economic effect is that they lead to the Tradition development, Joseph Canizaro’s planned community. With the new roads, the CDBG-funded water and sewer infrastructure, and the FEMA funds used to build the new St. Patrick’s HS and William Carey campuses at Tradition, somewhere around $100 million in federal funds will be spent on projects that coincidentally subsidize Canizaro’s investment.

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