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Best (and worst) of 2011: Legislation

Best (and worst) of 2011: Legislation

Even in a gridlocked year on Capitol Hill, Washington observers found legislative and regulatory developments they liked in 2011.

The House Financial Services Committee's ability to work in a bipartisan manner in reporting “the five-year National Flood Insurance reauthorization, which was passed overwhelmingly by the House” was one of the highlights of the year, said Kathy Doddridge, director of government affairs for the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. “Unfortunately it hasn't passed the Senate.”

For the American Insurance Assn., the best development was congressional approval of the free trade agreement, said AIA President and CEO Leigh Ann Pusey. “It will help insurers price and sell insurance in those countries.”

Joel Wood, senior vp of the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, cited an aspect of the ongoing implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2011 as the best development.

“The most encouraging development is the effectuation of the Federal Insurance Office,” he said. We believe that (FIO Director) Mike McRaith is perhaps singularly suited for the job...He's not only going to be a strong presence on international issues, but I think he's going to effectively use the bully pulpit to actively encourage modernization of insurance regulation.”

But ironically, the two events cited as the worst legislative developments also stem from the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, one of the biggest legislative events of last year.

“The most disappointing is that states have had such a difficult time getting their act together on surplus lines reform implementation,” said Mr. Wood. “For many years, the (National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners) has attempted to standardize surplus lines regulation. For five years, this legislation had been in the works, and with the one-year grace period from its enactment, one would have thought there would be some momentum behind a regime of harmonized law.”

AIA's Ms. Pusey also cited the implementation of Dodd-Frank as the worst development. “We're still a year out without any clarity for many of the regulations,” she said.