AUSTIN - In a press conference today, Senator Troy Fraser from Horseshoe Bay announced that he will be filing Senate Bill 310, requiring insurance companies doing business in Texas to immediately file their current rates and projected rates for the next six-month period for homeowners insurance with state regulators. "We need to know that the rates being charged for homeowners insurance are just, reasonable, adequate, not excessive, and not unfairly discriminatory," said Fraser, chairman of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.
The legislation gives the state insurance commissioner the authority to seek information about insurance companies' credit scoring formulas and methodologies, as well as all supporting data used by insurers to determine homeowners insurance premiums. The insurance commissioner is then required to prepare and deliver a summary of the data to the Legislature within 30 days after passage of the bill.
Earlier in the day, the Senate Finance Committee met with Billy Hamilton, representative of the Comptroller of Public Accounts, and John Keel from the Legislative Budget Board in a hearing to discuss the $1.8 billion shortfall in the current state budget. The committee has several options to come up with a solution to the shortfall, such as reductions in spending and inter-fund borrowing. According to the Lieutenant Governor, there will be an emergency appropriations bill in March to certify the reductions so that the budget will be balanced for fiscal year '03.
Senator Teel Bivins from Amarillo, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, filed Senate Bill 1, which presents a "zero-based" budget for the 2004-05 biennium. The bill, co-sponsored by the 14 other committee members, is based on one that Bob Bullock wrote in 1991, when he was Lt. Governor of Texas and had the goal of building a budget from zero based upon core essential services.
In anticipation of this measure, the Legislative Budget Board sent a letter out on January 28, 2003 asking all state agencies to analyze their budgets "in terms of what are core functions and essential agency services, how these services can be provided more efficiently, and what these services cost."
The Senate Committee on Finance will delay budget hearings until February 10, 2003.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, January 30, 2003, at 10:00 a.m.