This week, the New York state leaders reached an agreement on a $212B state budget, the largest in the state's history. Ultimately, most of smaller policy provisions proposed by the Governor were removed, but many “big picture" policy pieces made the final cut. Here is a summary of the key pieces affecting you and your customers:
No-Fault Anti-Fraud (Rejected): Big I NY supported the Governor's proposal to more easily and aggressively prosecute medical providers (“medical mills") that commit no-fault fraud, and lobbied members of the legislature on this issue during Independent Agents Advocacy Week. Unfortunately, this proposal was not included in the final budget. We are told this issue will be addressed post-budget.
Electronic Notarization and Electronic Service of Process (Rejected): Big I NY supported provisions in the Governor's budget to allow for electronic notarization and service of legal process. These provisions were eliminated from the final budget.
Tax Increases for Businesses and High Earners (Included): The final budget raises the corporate franchise tax for three years on businesses earning $5M or more from 6.5% to 7.25%. The capital base tax is also reinstated at .1875%. Marginal tax rates on individuals are increased for those earning $1M, $5-25M, and $25M+. Big I NY joined the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and a broad based coalition of business interests in calling on the legislature to reject any business tax increases. We are extremely disappointed the state has adopted a multi-billion dollar tax increase, particularly given that they are unnecessary in light of substantial new federal assistance.
Small Business Relief (Included): The final budget includes $1B in small business assistance, including $800M in small business grants and $200M in tax credits. The budget also includes a $35M return to work credit for restaurants. Big I NY met with state lawmakers and urged them to support this critical assistance package as part of NFIB's Small Business Day in March.
Insurer Tax Surcharge: (Rejected) The Assembly advanced a proposal to add an 18% surcharge to taxes paid by NY insurers. We were concerned that this could result in higher premiums, and fortunately, this proposal was rejected in the final budget.
Ultimately, this year's budget is a mixed bag. We are encouraged that neither the Governor nor legislature advanced harmful increases on insurance law fines and penalties as we have seen in past years, and the small business relief is desperately needed. However, the corporate and individual tax hikes will worsen the state's already dismal business climate and threaten to accelerate the ongoing population decline.
Contact Scott Hobson with questions
This week, Senator Neil Breslin, Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee, introduced legislation created by Big I NY to make the auto photo inspection voluntary at the discretion of an insurance carrier. This is a pro-customer measure to eliminate an unnecessary burden to the process of obtaining comp and collision coverage. Modern technology has rendered the photo inspection virtually useless (carriers tell us they don't even use them). It can be a major hassle for the insured, who risks losing coverage if the inspection isn't completed in time. Big I NY members sent over 220 emails to their state senators, calling on them to sign on to the bill.
Effective April 1, New York has legalized adult-use recreational cannabis, becoming the 15th state in the nation to do so. Personal consumption and possession is immediately legalized, and in the coming months, a regulatory framework will be put in place to govern the sale and distribution of cannabis. Big I NY will carefully monitor this issue for impacts on our members and their customers.
Big I NY joined a broad based group of employers, insurers, and labor organizations in calling on the legislature to reject a harmful “pay and pursue" proposal. We believe that by requiring payment before determining whether the service or treatment was medically necessary, this proposal will make it more difficult to determine whether care was appropriate and creates an incentive for ordering unnecessary procedures and conducting duplicative tests that will drive up costs for New Yorkers.
Big I NY also joined allies in the small business community in opposing A.2681(Reyes), which would, among other concerns, implement a new and burdensome regulatory framework for businesses of every size, create a new private right of action which will expose employers to predatory lawsuits, and mandates the organization of “workplace health and safety committees" with ambiguous functions, purposes, and authority. The combination of these burdens will create significant new costs during a period of unprecedented economic distress. Further, this bill makes no distinction between large corporate entities and the small, local businesses that have suffered specific duress during the pandemic.
The state budget was due by April 1. As of right now no budget has been voted on, however we hear that a final deal is near.
Contact Scott Hobson with any questions.
Responding to an alert from Big I New York, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) yesterday updated its guidance to financial services companies about a recent wave of cyber fraud. If your agency has a website that enables visitors to obtain instant auto insurance quotes, you should take immediate steps to protect any non-public information collected.
As we reported last month, DFS warned of a "systemic and aggressive campaign to exploit cybersecurity flaws in websites that provide instant insurance quotes." The department's letter provided specific actions companies, including agencies and brokerages, could take to reduce the risk of cyber crime.
On March 9, two Big I New York member agencies contacted us about individuals having received personal auto insurance policies from one particular insurer, when they had not applied for the policies. By March 24, we had heard from three other member agencies about the same occurrence involving other insurers. That day, we sent an email to a DFS attorney to ask whether the department was aware of the problem and what we should tell members. On March 26, the attorney advised that their cybersecurity unit was investigating and that they would publish updated guidance as soon as possible. The result was the letter issued yesterday.
According to the DFS letter, cyber criminals are supplementing the hacking methods reported in the earlier alert with two other methods:
- Web debugging tools for capturing plain-text nonpublic information (NPI) transmitted from data service providers to instant quote websites in certain file formats
- "Credential stuffing" to gain access to insurance agent accounts and use those agent accounts to steal consumer NPI. Credential stuffing is "the automated injection of breached username/password pairs in order to fraudulently gain access to user accounts."
The letter noted, "Cybercriminals are also repeatedly purchasing insurance policies with eChecks and/or stolen credit and debit card information to view policyholders’ (driver's license numbers) and other NPI."
The letter urges insurers, agencies and brokerages with instant quote websites to take several remedial actions, including technology to detect and block bots, preventing NPI from being prefilled on their websites, limiting agent and employee access to NPI only to those who need it to do their jobs, protecting NPI received from vendors, and more. We encourage you to work with your information technology departments or consultants to take these and other protective measures as soon as you can.
Any consumers who discover that fraudulent policies have been issued in their names should contact the issuing insurers immediately and request appropriate corrections. Consumers who may have received auto insurance inquiries from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles should contact you or their real insurers directly to have corrected notifications sent to the DMV.
Information about how to comply with New York's regulation Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies and how to get cybersecurity help is available at www.biginy.org/cyber.
Is EVERYONE in your agency registered for the Legislative Conference? Registration is FREE, and now is the time to have someone sign up EVERYONE in your agency – principals, producers, CSRs, administrators. The threats and challenges to YOUR profession and agency are real!
It is efficient to designate someone in your agency to register all of your colleagues/employees. Registration is easy, and you can watch it at your convenience as it is recorded.
- Remarks by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the #1 swing vote in the Senate
- An interview with Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (and former Florida Governor)
- An interview with Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), top Republican on the Small Business Committee and senior member of the Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over insurance
- Remarks by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), sponsor of the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, a senior member of the Financial Services Committee, and Chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee
- An interview with Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), co-chairman of the bi-partisan Problem Solvers Caucus, member of the Financial Services Committee
- Remarks by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the #3 Democrat in the House
- An interview with Fox News host Bill Hemmer discussing the salient issues of the day for both small businesses and the country
- A briefing by your top rated Big I Captiol Hill Office staff on issues that will impact YOU and your profession
- An address on the state of the Independent Agency system by Chairman Jon Jensen
- The Big I Legislator of the Year Award
- The Maurice Herndon Award to the top state association on government affairs over the last year
- The Sydney O. Smith Award to the person who has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the Big I on Government Affairs over the last year
- The Barney Burns Award to the top person who has worked tirelessly on InsurPac
- Company Executives
- Big I Young Agent leaders
- …and More!
If you want your colleagues and employees to truly comprehend the VALUE of being a Big I member, this is THE event to register for and virtually attend!
Let’s show the grassroots power of the Big I to promote YOUR interests!
Albany is buzzing with activity, and Big I NY is hard at work representing your interests. Here is a recap of the recent developments at the state capitol.
Our 2021 legislative agenda has been released – read the full position paper here.
On Wednesday, March 17th, the Assembly Insurance Committee passed Big I NY-supported legislation to repeal the anti-arson application in NYC, the last jurisdiction where it still applies. We anticipate the bill will be put to a vote by the full Assembly in the near future, and once passed, must pass through the Insurance committee and a full vote in the Senate. This legislation was a key issue at Independent Agents Advocacy Week.
On Monday, March 15th, Big I NY convened a meeting with DFS Executive Deputy Superintendent of Insurance My Chi To and several large member brokerages to discuss forthcoming guidance on diversity, inclusion, and equality, and the role of IAs in leading by example. The new guidance was released on Tuesday, and Big I NY issued a statement in support.
On Sunday, March 14th, the NYS Senate and Assembly released their own “one house" budget proposals. Between now and April 1, legislative leaders and the governor will negotiate a final budget. This year's budget process is unusually tumultuous and uncertain, given the Governor's recent scandals and supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly, which give the legislature substantially greater influence in negotiations.
Big I NY supports provisions in the Governor's budget proposal to crack down on no-fault “medical mills", which was cut from both the Senate and Assembly proposals, indicating the issue is not likely to make the final budget. Big I NY supports proposals to allow e-notarization and electronic service of process. Both of these proposals were included in the Governor's and Senate's budgets, but not the Assembly's. Lastly, the Assembly's budget proposal includes an 18% surcharge on insurance company taxes. We oppose this measure as we are concerned it would lead to higher premiums.
On March 8th, Big I NY joined a broad-based coalition of employer groups, insurers, and labor unions in calling on the legislature to reject single payer healthcare.
On March 10th, Big I NY counsel argued our appeal of the “Best Interest" regulation for life insurance and annuities, arguing that the regulation is unconstitutionally vague. Watch oral arguments here
Contact Scott Hobson with questions.
The Big “I" today announced that Bill Hemmer, co-anchor of FOX News Channel's “America's Newsroom," will be a featured speaker at the annual Big “I" Virtual Legislative Conference.
Hemmer will chat with Big “I" President & CEO Bob Rusbuldt on Friday, April 16, in the closing segment starting at 2 p.m. ET about small business news, the latest headlines and his perspectives from his anchor chair. Hemmer joined Fox News in 2005, and previously worked at CNN. As one of the network's top breaking news anchors, Hemmer has provided extensive live coverage of every election cycle since joining the network, including FOX's 2020 election night coverage. Hemmer has covered breaking news for FOX all over the world, including some of the biggest headlines of the last decade. Most recently, Hemmer anchored live coverage as rioters mobbed the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
“Bill will offer unique insights and perspectives from his experiences reading the pulse of the nation," says Bob Rusbuldt, Big “I" president & CEO. “I look forward to talking with him about the economy, taxes, the new Congress, the media and many more political issues and current events that affect the independent agent and broker community and small businesses."
The Big “I" Legislative Conference is the insurance industry's best-attended, most effective legislative meeting. This year's event will take place virtually April 13-16, daily at 2 p.m. ET. Sessions will run 45-60 minutes. The annual Legislative Conference provides an opportunity for Big “I" members to discuss important issues with their congressional representatives. Top topics this year include key issues for small businesses, taxes, flood insurance, health care and insurance regulatory reform.
On Wednesday, Howard Kronberg of Keidel, Weldon, and Cunningham presented oral arguments on appeal of our ongoing challenge to the best interest regulation for life insurance and annuities (Regulation 187). Our key argument for overturning the regulation is that it is unconstitutionally vague. Specifically, the regulation compels speech by the agent or broker (i.e. making a specific product recommendation), yet fails to provide concrete guidance on how specifically to comply with the law. The regulation holds that the producer must act in the “best interest of the customer” but is silent on what is sufficient to demonstrate they acted in the customer’s best interest, nor even who the “customer” ultimately is, since the purchaser of a life insurance policy does not collect the benefits.
Counsel for Big I NY provided specific examples of how other DFS regulations include specific compliance criteria. The current best interest regulation is impossible for producers to meaningfully comply with, and is thus unconstitutionally vague.
“The 30,000 foot view of this is, what required a scalpel, the Department used a sledgehammer,” concluded Kronberg.
The court is expected to issue a ruling within 120 days. A recording of the arguments will be available early next week.
Today, members of the New York legislature reintroduced the New York Health Act and called for its passage as early as this spring. The Realities of Single Payer Coalition, of which Big I NY is a member, pushed back strongly on the proposal to create a single payer health care system in NY.
"The New York Health Act would destroy the existing insurance market and hurt consumers by removing their ability to choose the best healthcare for their needs. Independent insurance agents and brokers are committed to helping New Yorkers protect what matters most. We believe consumers are best served by a competitive market rather than a single option dictated by state government,” said David MacLachlan, CPCU, Chair of Big I NY.
Read the full statement by Realities of Single Payer here.
On Wednesday, March 10th, counsel for Big I NY will present oral arguments in our ongoing legal challenge to the first amendment to Insurance Regulation 187. The regulation, which imposes a vague and burdensome “best interest" standard for the sale of life insurance and annuities, fundamentally alters the duty of an insurance producer to the customer and threatens to harm consumers by reducing the availability of affordable coverage. The oral arguments are the final step before a ruling on our appeal.
In 2018, Big I NY sued the Department of Financial Services, over the amended regulation alleging that: the DFS overstepped its authority; violated the State Administrative Procedures Act; created an unconstitutionally vague regulation; and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. We asked the court to invalidate the “best interest" amendment in its entirety. Litigation was our last resort - during the amendment's public comment period, we attempted to work in good faith with the DFS to create a balanced approach that would serve customers' interests while protecting consumer access to the market.
In July 2019, the New York State Supreme Court (the trial level court) ruled in favor of the DFS, and Big I NY doubled down on our commitment to our members and their customers by appealing that decision. The appeal is now under consideration by the Appellate Division, Third Department.
Since the amended Regulation 187 became fully effective on February 1, 2020, we have grown increasingly concerned that the complexity and uncertainty of the new standard is creating a disincentive to sell term life policies and simple annuities, to the detriment of New York consumers.
As always, Big I NY has your back: we are confident in the merits of our case, and hopeful the court will agree and nullify the amended regulation.
Watch the oral arguments here at 1:00pm on March 10th.