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Public reacts to proposed increase in windstorm insurance rates
JEFFERSON COUNTY- by Haley Bull
If you live in one of the 14 coastal counties, including Jefferson County, you could see a surcharge on your property and automobile insurance as well as your windstorm coverage. At a public hearing Wednesday in Beaumont, many people spoke out against the increase.
The Texas Department of Insurance said the surcharges are needed to increase the windstorm fun, which has gone down because of payouts for hurricane and storm damages in recent years.
Wednesday, there were cloudy skies and a light breeze, weather that's not always found in Southeast Texas.
Hurricanes Rita and Ike caused billions of dollars in damage and took a chunk out of the windstorm insurance fund. The state wants to rebuild the fund before the next hurricane season.
"These rules ladies and gentlemen in the coast are discrimination, let's call it what it is," State Rep. Todd Hunter (R- Corpus Christi) said.
The Department of Insurance proposal to add surcharges to home, windstorm and auto insurance in order to boost the fund didn't go over well during a public hearing at the Beaumont Civic Center.
"The economic impact will be substantial to owners of both residential and commercial properties in the 14 county area," Jefferson County Commissioner Eddie Arnold said.
The Texas Commissioner of Insurance said a house bill passed several years ago allows for a surcharge on insurance coverage in the coastal counties to build back the windstorm fund.
"We don't have the authority as an agency to expand that statewide," Texas Commissioner of Insurance Julie Rathgeber said.
"We can go back in 2015 and we can make some changes and broaden it," State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) said.
A debate that won't end before the 2014 hurricane season.
There will be two more hearings on the issue March 3rd in Austin and March 5th in Corpus Christi. The Department of Insurance hasn't made a final decision or said when it will decide whether to add the fees. People can also mail in comments to the Department of Insurance.