Hopes for Windstorm Insurance Reform in 83rd Legislature

CORPUS CHRISTI (Texas Tribune) - Folks living along the Texas coastline have endured a nearly 50-percent hike in their Texas Windstorm Insurance rates over the last ten years.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association will ask for another five-percent increase this year, and instead of complaining, residents are mobilizing to have the 83rd legislature pass sweeping reforms of the system.

It's a system designed 42 years ago to protect people's properties, and some say it is no longer worth the high rates to many of the homeowners along Texas' shore.

Worried about losing workers at petrochemical plants and oil companies, leaders in the state's 14 coastal counties convened in the weeks leading up to the 83rd legislative session to rally those paying dearly for their wind insurance.

"We're going to go forward with a coastal plan. We are going to be the aggressors," State Rep. Todd Hunter said. "We are going to start and define the discussion."

Texas Windstorm Insurance rates have increased an average of five-percent every year for the past ten years for residential properties; six-percent on the commercial end.

The Windstorm Association has spent $2.1 billion on losses and litigation related to 2008's Hurricane Ike alone; and for many, the elevated premiums are on top of what they pay for their homeowners and flood insurance policies.

TWIA reforms have been a focus of the past two legislative sessions, with lawmakers making changes to how it's funded, eligibility requirements, claims processes and agency transparency; but the people who formed the Coastal Windstorm Task Force in Corpus Christi want more, like increasing the number of coastal residents on TWIA's 10-member governing board, and a statewide catastrophe insurance plan that would have all Texans share in the cost.

"I think it's important that we don't do legislation that punishes the coast," Hunter said. "That's what we've been up against. That sends a negative message for economic development here, which cuts revenue to the state of Texas."

Those drafting the TWIA legislation here along the coast say this session will be different, because they'll be offering what they call a three-prong solution that addresses the board, costs and more stringent building codes.

"We have a plan that brings that change forward, and I think in a way, that's going to be acceptable to both factions," Ingleside Mayor Pete Perkins said. "The inland people who don't want to support the coast, and the coast that doesn't want to be, as Todd puts it, segregated."

They are hoping it's a plan that will also draw support from lawmakers in other parts of the state and pass in the 83rd legislature.

Hunter said he expects the TWIA reform legislation to be filed at the end of this month, or in early February.


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