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Jun 21
Legislative Session Has Adjourned - How Did Independent Agents Fare?
imageLegislative session adjourned early Friday morning, two days after the scheduled end date. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to Albany until January 2020, where they will resume the second year of the two-year session. This session was particularly chaotic, with an unprecedented number of harmful bills gaining traction in the closing days of the session. Our members rose to the challenge, sending emails and making nearly four hundred phone calls to key lawmakers on a multitude of bills. The government relations team spent many long days in the capitol, speaking with lawmakers and coordinating with allies in the insurance industry, working to keep our message at the forefront.

Fortunately, our efforts paid off and we were able to block the passage of a number of dangerous bills. Beneficial legislation to protect homeowners from unscrupulous roofing contractors passed both the Senate and Assembly, and we made strong progress advancing bills to repeal the anti-arson application requirement and eliminate the “diligent effort" requirement for placing many excess lines policies.

Unfair Business Practices (Opposed) – Did not pass Senate or Assembly

Big I NY aggressively opposed a bill which would have created a broad and vaguely-defined range of “unfair, abusive, or deceptive business practices," imposed a minimum of $1,000 in damages plus actual damages, provided attorneys' fees, and authorized class action lawsuits by any person, organization, or business even where no public harm occurred. This legislation is extremely troubling to independent agencies, as it would substantially increase legal exposure and correspondingly the cost of professional liability insurance, as well as increasing the cost of insurance for business customers. In addition to meeting with key lawmakers, Big I NY coordinated with broad based coalition of business and insurance groups to fight this legislation. We engaged members across the state in a three stage call-in campaign in a show of force driving nearly 300 phone calls to targeted lawmakers.

Lead Paint Exclusion Ban (Opposed)Passed Assembly, did not pass Senate

This legislation would ban the use of lead paint exclusions in habitational coverage for rental properties. We opposed this legislation – while well intentioned, we fear it would devastate the market for habitational coverage, resulting in substantial cost increases for renters and a crisis of availability. Member agents made dozens of calls and sent emails to Senate leadership expressing concern about the bill. Ultimately, the bill was not brought to a vote in the Senate before session adjourned.

Storm Chasers (Supported) Passed Senate and Assembly

Big I NY supports legislation to enact a wide range of of protections against unscrupulous roofing contractors, often called “storm chasers" who defraud customers or perform substandard work.

Anti Arson Application Repeal (Supported)Passed Assembly, did not pass Senate

We worked closely with the insurance trades and Assemblyman Rosenthal (D, Queens) and Senator Sanders (D, Queens) to advance legislation to repeal the burdensome and ineffective anti-arson application. In February, member agents met with over two dozen lawmakers to support this bill at Independent Agents Advocacy Day​. Big I Local associations Big I Tri-County, Big I Western New York, and Big I Rochester submitted letters in support of the legislation to members of the Senate, while Queens-area Big I members Larry Robotti and William Kim published letters to the editor in support in two Queens papers. Big I members from across the state called and emailed Senate leadership to help move the bill to a vote. Disappointingly, the Senate failed to bring the bill to a vote before adjournment.

​“Diligent Effort" Reform (Supported)Passed Senate, did not pass Assembly​

Big I NY worked alongside the Excess Lines Association of New York to advance legislation to streamline the placement of E&S coverage by removing the “diligent effort" requirement for commercial lines policies placed through a wholesale broker, as well as streamlining the required affidavit. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously, but faced opposition in the Assembly Insurance Committee. Member agents sent messages of support to the Committee Chair, but the bill was not brought to a vote. We will continue to push for passage of this bill in 2020.

Bad Faith Bills (Opposed)Did not pass Senate or Assembly

The personal injury lawyer lobby pushed two bills to allow private lawsuits for both first party and third party “bad faith" claims against insurance companies. If enacted, these bills would drive up the cost of virtually all types of insurance.

Non-Compete Ban (Opposed)Did not pass Senate or Assembly

Legislation to ban the use of non-compete agreements for employees earning under $75,000 annually passed a two required committee votes in the Assembly, but was not voted on by the full body. It remains in the Senate Labor Committee and was not brought to a vote.

SHIELD ActPassed Senate and Assembly

Big I NY worked with insurance industry partners to support amendments to the bill to help harmonize it with the NY Cyber Regulation. The final version of the bill imposes significant requirements on NY businesses, but the majority of these are already required of agencies under the Cyber Regulation. The main provisions that will affect our members are a requirement to notify the Attorney General in the event of a breach that affects over 500 customers, as well as a presumption that failing to comply with the SHIELD Act, and by extension main provisions of the Cyber Regulation, will be a considered a violation of the General Business Law, enforced by the Attorney General. The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor. 

Wrongful Death Expansion (Opposed)Did not pass Senate or Assembly

Big I NY is worked closely with a broad coalition of insurance, business, and local government groups to strongly oppose a bill to expand the categories of damages which a plaintiff may recover in a lawsuit for alleged wrongful death. This legislation would have a significant impact on New York's insurance market. A recently-released study found that the bill could lead to an 12.6% average increase in annual premiums for New York policyholders, or $2.2 billion. 

Continuing Education Credit for Association Membership - Passed Senate and Assembly

This legislation directs the DFS superintendent to grant three hours of CE credit to licensees who are active members in a statewide professional insurance producer association. The legislation leaves discretion to the DFS as to how credit will be provided to individual employees of agencies who are association members. The governor vetoed this legislation last year, noting that the originally proposed six CE credits was too high. With the number of credits now reduced to three, it appears likely the governor will sign the bill. 

​Sexual HarassmentPassed Senate and Assembly

Both houses passed legislation​ to strengthen the state's sexual harassment law. Key provisions include the removal of the “severe and pervasive" standard to prove harassment claims, extending the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims to three years, and indicating that the fact that an individual did not make a complaint about the harassment to their employer will not be determinative of whether such employer is liable.​ The governor is expected to sign the legislation, which will take effect immediately.

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