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Switch in majority party may delay RRG expansion


Next week's elections may have an impact on efforts to expand the Liability Risk Retention Act to permit risk retention groups to offer property coverage, say expansion advocates.

But just what that impact will be may take a while to materialize, they say.

"If the Republicans hold the House, the House is likely to look at expanding the Liability Risk Retention Act," said Lawrence Mirel, lead counsel to the American Risk Retention Coalition and a partner in the Washington law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding L.L.P. Mr. Mirel, who is also former insurance, securities and banking commissioner of the District of Columbia, added that "just exactly how and where they'll expand it is not clear--but it's going to be fairly high" on the priority list of Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., who numbers among the top candidates to succeed Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, as chairman of the Financial Services Committee in the new Congress if Republicans maintain their House majority.

"If Democrats take the House--I don't know," said Mr. Mirel. Noting that the likely chairman of the committee if the Democrats gain the majority would be Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Mr. Mirel said, and "it's not clear to me whether this is on his radar screen." In any event, dealing with the federal terrorism insurance backstop is likely to take priority because of the short time in which Congress can extend it, he said.

What would happen to RRG expansion in a Democratic Congress is "unknown," said Robert H. Myers Jr., managing partner in Atlanta-based law firm Morris, Manning and Martin L.L.P.'s Washington office, who serves as Washington counsel to the Minneapolis-based National Risk Retention Assn.

"The people who are interested in this have been dealing with Congress under Republican leadership. If the leadership changes, that means two things: There will be a period of time in which the new agenda is established. It takes a while for the entire leadership to set their agenda--so that would put off initially taking up this issue," he said.

"Secondly, it means that new majority staff is going to have to become educated on what these issues are," he said. "I don't see it as an overall philosophical issue, I see it more as a pragmatic issue," he said.