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Federal charter's chances 'realistic': Sununu


WASHINGTON--The co-sponsor of a bill that would allow insurers and brokers to seek federal rather than state regulation hopes to get the measure approved by the Senate Banking Committee by the end of the year.

During a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday, Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., called getting the National Insurance Act through the committee "very realistic." The measure, which he and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., introduced Thursday, would allow both property/casualty and life insurers to be chartered by federal authorities, much as banks can choose either state or federal regulation.

The measure, which closely tracks a bill introduced by the two lawmakers in April 2006, also would allow the federal chartering and licensing of national insurance agencies. Unlike last year's bill, the National Insurance Act would also apply to surplus lines insurers.

Sen. Sununu said during the press conference that the Bush administration has not endorsed the new bill, although administration officials spoke "positively" about last year's measure during banking committee hearings in 2006. He said he expected the committee to hold one or two hearings on the new measure later this year.

The Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. supports the optional federal charter approach, while the insurance industry remains divided. The American Insurance Assn. supports the bill, the National Assn. of Mutual Insurance Cos. opposes it, and the Property Casualty Insurers Assn. of America has not taken a position on it.