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Midterm elections spell major change in ranks of state insurance regulators


The Democratic sweep of Congress has significant implications for state insurance regulators, says the Washington state insurance commissioner and onetime congressman.

It creates a "window of opportunity" for state regulators to modernize regulatory procedures or face the "specter" of a federal insurance regulator, said Mike Kreidler, a former congressman who served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 1994 under then-Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich.

Mr. Kreidler predicts that Rep. Dingell, who addressed inadequate regulations and insurer insolvency in the oft-quoted 1990 "Failed Promises" report, will again take the helm of that committee and re-assert some jurisdiction over insurance-related issues.

Along with congressional balloting last week, voters elected two newcomers and three incumbents to the state insurance regulator ranks. Among issues state insurance regulators should consider, Mr. Kreidler said, are further streamlining company and agent licensing, as well as seeking greater say-so by large states in the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners.

While Democrats took control of both houses of Congress, they won only two of five state insurance regulator races.

Florida Democrat Adelaide Sink bested Republican Tom Lee with 53.6% of the vote for the post of chief financial officer, whose duties include overseeing insurance and assisting in the appointment of the state's commissioner of insurance regulation.

In addition, Oklahoma Democrat Kim Holland won her first elected term over GOP opponent Bill Case with 52% of the vote.

Leading the three successful Republican candidates was California's Steve Poizner, who beat Cruz Bustamante with 50.7% of the vote. In addition, Republican incumbents John Oxendine in Georgia and Sandy Praeger in Kansas were re-elected as insurance commissioners in their respective states.

Insurance industry representatives say they are optimistic that the business backgrounds of the new California and Florida regulators will make them receptive to the need for greater predictability and efficiency in regulation.

In addition, turnover among governor-appointed insurance commissioners may occur in six states where Democrats replaced Republicans-Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio-said David Reddick, associate director of public policy for the National Assn. of Mutual Insurance Cos. in Indianapolis.