Key Issues for IIANC Gov. Affairs

IIANC is the advocate for independent insurance agents in North Carolina. Our lobbyist, Joe Stewart, works to protect IIANC members’ interests and coordinates with Big “I” colleagues in Washington on federal regulatory issues as well. While you are busy running your agency and making a living, IIANC is fighting for you every day at the State Capitol in Raleigh and on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Here’s a look at the status of key items on IIANC’s legislative agenda:

Hands-free Driving Law

After initial success in 2019, with a hands-free driving bill passing the state House (note: hands-free legislation has been introduced every session of the state legislature since 2009, and never even got a committee hearing before), this initiative has stalled somewhat.

This year’s effort, SB 20 Hands-Free NC, was introduced by IIANC members Senator Kevin Corbin and Senator Jim Burgin in January. A significant IIANC-funded public awareness campaign was launched, with billboards across the state and radio/digital ads generating thousands of constituent calls (including many from IIANC members) to state legislative offices.

A Meredith College Polling Program survey released in March showed 85% of North Carolinians support a hands-free driving law, and the legislation has the support of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey as well as the associations representing North Carolina’s sheriffs and chiefs of police.

However, the powerful chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Bill Rabon (who controls whether a bill can get a hearing in Senate Committees), did not allow the bill to come before the Commerce and Insurance Committee for discussion and a vote.

No one disagrees with the fact distracted driving is a problem on NC roads (it’s now the cause of 1-in-5 of all vehicle crashes), but Sen. Rabon believes government goes too far in restricting personal freedom when trying to address public safety issues, and that a hands-free law is one of those kinds of restrictions.

Hands-free legislation was not the only insurance-related bill Sen. Rabon felt fell into the category this session – he also held bills that address predatory roofing contractors (SB 205) sponsored by IIANC member Sen. Vickie Sawyer, and the licensing of individuals who install and service fire safety equipment (SB 5) sponsored by Sen. Jim Burgin, also an IIANC member.

Regardless, we’re planning on making another run at a hands-free law in the 2022 legislative session.

Thirty-six states and US territories now have some version of a hands-free law on the books, and the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL, the association of legislators who serve on their state’s legislature’s insurance-related committee) has promulgated a model hands-free law and deems such laws the best way to combat the highway safety peril of distracted driving, so it’s only a matter of time before a hands-free law gets passed in NC.

IIANC will continue to push on this issue because the sooner we have a hands-free driving law, the sooner we see a decrease in distracted driving accidents and fewer injuries and fatalities among innocent victims of distracted drivers on our roads.

Certificates of Insurance (COI)

The issue IIANC members contact us on most often is COIs.

Frequently it’s that they have been put in the difficult position between a customer who needs a COI immediately so they can get paid for work they have done for a third party who is insisting on something that’s contrary to state law regarding COIs.

Legislation sought by IIANC, SB 270 (IIANC member Senator Todd Johnson is the primary sponsor), would add clarifying language to the current COI statute (to make clear a COI can only come from a carrier or producer, that electronic forms of COI are also regulated by the NC DOI, and to provide for a fine of up to $5,000 for any third party who attempts to compel an agent to misrepresent coverage information contained in a COI).

This bill passed the state Senate unanimously and is now awaiting a hearing in the House Insurance Committee. At this point, it appears likely this bill will get passed out of the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor.

The Governmental Affairs program has also secured funds for an informational campaign to roll out with the effective date of the new COI law (probably in October of this year) to provide IIANC members with resources they can use to educate third parties they deal with on the laws governing COI and will work with NC DOI and groups representing entities that are regular COI requestors (construction companies, utilities, local governments, etc.) on this educational effort.

DMV and Liability Coverage

Another frequently mentioned problem area for IIANC members is dealing with DMV on proof of vehicle liability coverage.

In meetings with DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup over the past two years it’s clear there’s a shared desire to establish a seamlessly integrated link between DMV and carriers so that when vehicles are added to or dropped from a liability policy that information can be conveyed in real-time, and that submission of related forms like the DL123 can be done electronically – to accomplish this, DMV has indicated funds will have to be appropriated by the legislature to handle the related IT expense associated with establishing such an interface (and we are working on that).

SB 202 (IIANC member Senator Vickie Sawyer is the primary sponsor) attempts to provide a short-term fix for some of these issues by refining the process by which DMV determines a vehicle to be uninsured, with a goal to decrease the number of errant lapsed liability notices sent to consumers (that prompt angry calls to agents) – it’s a step that hopefully makes this problem area better while we work to fix it entirely.

IIANC was also successful in convincing the NC Department of Transportation (the state agency where DMV is housed) to include a provision in HB 165, their ‘agency bill’ (legislation to effect mostly technical changes to the law DOT feels are necessary), to remove the exemption carriers with less than $25M in annual vehicle insurance premium get from having to submit a notice electronically within 20 days of when liability coverage is picked up or dropped (DMV reported during our meetings with them that the data entry backlog from exempted carriers who submitted info printed on paper was a contributing factor to the number of errant lapse notices going out).

Please feel free to contact IIANC Vice President for Governmental Affairs Joe Stewart at jstewart@iianc.com or (919) 614-0520 if you have any questions or need information on any of this legislation, or have suggestions or ideas for statutory fixes to other problem areas encountered by agents.

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