After a long final week, the regularly scheduled 2022 Legislative Session concluded, with the Senate finishing their work at 2:30 A.M. Friday June 3rd, and the Assembly finishing just before 8:20 A.M. on Saturday June 4th. During the entire 2022 Legislative Session, 1,007 bills passed both Houses, which is the most to have passed both Houses during a Legislative Session in the last 25 years.
We are pleased to report that we have scored several major wins this session, including most notable, the passage of our bill to eliminate mandatory auto photo inspections. Contact SHobson@BigINY with any questions.
Beneficial Bills Passed/Advanced:
✔ Repeal Auto Photo Inspection Mandate – Passed Senate and Assembly
S.6028 (Breslin) and A.6877 (Zebrowski)
In a historic victory, Big I NY's “Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act", which makes auto photo inspections optional at the discretion of insurance carriers passed both houses of the legislature. The bill is our top legislative priority this year, and has finally cleared the legislature after being stalled for nearly a decade. The passage of this bill was the result of a concerted multi-year grassroots and lobbying campaign involving legislative meetings with agents and lawmakers, hundreds of phone calls and emails, 1,700 petition signatures by agents and their customers, and a statewide PR and media campaign. As a testament to the strength of our campaign and merits of our position, the bill passed both houses with overwhelming support.
The bill must now be signed by Governor Hochul. We anticipate the bill will not be sent to her desk for several months, at which time she has ten days to act. If signed, photo inspections will become optional at carrier discretion beginning January 1, 2023.
✔ Streamline Excess Lines Affidavits – Passed Senate and Assembly
S.8127 (Breslin) and A.9088 (Hunter)
We celebrate another important win with the passage of a bill to reduce the information required to be reported when placing coverage in the excess markets. The bill would reduce the number of data elements that a broker is required to collect and report for each of three declining licensed insurers from seven to three. The insurer name, NAIC number and the reason the broker believed the licensed insurer would consider underwriting the risk would still be recorded in an affidavit. The bill must now be signed by Governor Hochul. We anticipate the bill will not be sent to her desk for several months, at which time she has ten days to act.
✔ Anti-Arson Application Repeal - Passed Assembly
S.2627 (Sanders) and A.603 (D. Rosenthal)
Big I NY supports legislation to repeal the anti-arson application in the last remaining jurisdiction, NYC. The bill passed the Assembly this year, but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate.
Harmful Bills Defeated:
✔ Single Payer Healthcare – Died in Committee, Senate and Assembly
S.5474 (Rivera) and A.6058 (Gottfried)
This bill would abolish the state's private health insurance market in favor of a government run “single payer" program. The Assembly has passed the bill five times now, and there are currently 33 co-sponsors in the Senate; the exact number needed to pass it. Last year, Big I NY mobilized a group of members with experience in the health and benefits space to meet with Senators during “Single Payer Action Week." That momentum carried into 2022, and the bill ultimately the bill was never voted out of committee in either the Senate or Assembly.
✔ Lead Paint Exclusion Ban – Passed Assembly, Died in Senate Insurance Committee
S.7039-A (Ryan) and A.7488-A (Rivera)
Legislation to ban the use of lead paint exposure exclusions in residential habitational coverage passed the Assembly, but died in the Insurance Committee in the Senate. This bill would send shockwaves through the market, and could lead to a crisis of cost and availability. Big I NY and partners in the insurance industry advocated instead for a primary prevention approach as a more effective solution to the issue of lead paint poisoning.
Harmful Bills Passed:
❌ Expansion of Wrongful Death Benefits – Passed Senate and Assembly
S.74-A (Hoylman) and A.6770 (Weinstein)
This legislation would expand the types of compensation available to family members in a wrongful death claim to include grief and emotional anguish. The current law permits families of a victim of wrongful death to collect the full value of any economic damages (for example medical costs, loss of support, loss of a future inheritance, etc.), damages for pain and suffering experienced by the victim, and punitive damages if the defendant's conduct was particularly malicious and/or intentional.
We oppose this bill because it is unnecessary and costly. The current law provides juries the ability to fairly compensate the families of victims. Emotional damages by their very nature are subjective and impossible to quantify, and in tort cases where they are awarded, are often sizeable. Ultimately the cost of these awards are borne by policyholders and the public writ large, through higher premiums, loss of affordable coverage options, and higher taxes. A recent study found that this legislation could increase average annual premiums for New York residents and businesses by $2.2 billion or 12.6%.
The New York State Senate recently passed Big I NY's Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act, our bill to make CARCO inspections optional at the discretion of insurance carriers. Earlier this year, the bill passed the Assembly. Now, all that remains is for it to be signed by the Governor.
I want to take a moment to thank all of our agents who spoke up on this critical issue. This is a truly historic accomplishment; for over a decade this bill has never moved. Today, it is one stroke of a pen away from becoming law.
What did it take to get here?
Persistent pressure from agents. Dozens of meetings with state lawmakers. Hundreds of phone calls. Thousands of emails and petition signatures. Letters to the editor, tweets, and shares on social media. Organizing the support of twenty different employer associations across NY. More than anything, your passion - and frustration - carried us to the finish line.
What happens next?
The bill must be officially "sent" to the Governor's desk by the legislature. It's not uncommon for this step to take several months. Once it hits her desk, she has ten days to sign or veto it. If signed, the bill will take effect on January 1, 2023. At that point, carriers are free to no longer require photo inspections.
Scott Hobson, MPA
Assistant Vice President of Government Relations
Big I New York has asked Kemper Auto & Home to delay its announced commission reductions on certain auto insurance policies. The carrier was told in a meeting this week that the suddenness of its move is unreasonable and bad for its independent agents.
The carrier informed many of its New York agencies this week that it is reducing the commission rate on its Kemper PrimeSM personal auto insurance product to an extremely low level. The change will take effect on June 1, 2022. Several Big I New York members contacted our office to ask whether the carrier's action is legal. We have concluded that it is, for two reasons:
- New York insurance law regulates carrier commission reductions only in situations where the carrier has terminated an agency's contract. For any
personal lines policies that the law requires the carrier to continue, the carrier must pay the prevailing commission rate in effect at the time of the termination. For
commercial lines, the carrier must pay the commission rate applicable to that agent at the time of the termination. New York law does not regulate commission changes in other situations.
- A review of the carrier's agency contract indicates that it gives the carrier the right to change the commission schedule at any time in compliance with applicable state law.
While it appears that the carrier has the legal right to take this action with little advance notice, Big I New York President and CEO Lisa Lounsbury met with carrier representatives on May 19 to register strong objections. They explained that the carrier took the action after unsuccessfully seeking rate relief from state regulators. During frank remarks, Lounsbury stressed the unfairness of giving agencies little more than two weeks' advance notice of such a large reduction. She asked them to consider delaying implementation to dates further into the summer. Their response was noncommittal. She had a subsequent conversation with Bob Otis, the carrier's president of personal insurance, on May 20 with the same result.
As of this writing, we suggest that members who represent this carrier:
- Assume the announced reduction will take effect on schedule,
- Respond in the best interests of their clients and their businesses, and
- Contact their Kemper Auto & Home marketing representatives to explain the impact this change will have on their agencies
Support Builds for Photo Inspection Reform
This week, Big I NY rallied twenty business and insurance associations to support our bill to make photo inspections optional, the Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act (AICRA). The wide ranging group included statewide employer associations such as the Business Council of NYS, National Federation of Independent Business, the NY Farm Bureau, several regional chambers of commerce, and all of the state's agent associations and P&C carrier trades. Our letter was delivered to all members of the state Senate, and was covered in multiple publications including State of Politics a premiere state political report. The bill has passed the Assembly, but has not yet been voted on by the Senate.
Grassroots Photo Inspection Reform Campaign Intensifies
Also this week, we continued an intensive statewide grassroots campaign to pressure the Senate to act on AICRA. Big I NY members made approximately one hundred phone calls to senators demanding action on the bill this session. Also this week our petition to pass AICRA surpassed 1,600 signatures, with more added every day. Please sign the petition, call your senator, and urge your colleagues and customers to do so as well.
Excess Lines Affidavit Bill Clears Legislature
On Monday, a Big I NY priority bill to streamline the excess lines affidavit passed the Assembly. The bill will reduce the amount of information required to be submitted to only three fields: name of declining carrier, their NAIC number, and the reason the risk was declined. Big I NY agents lobbied in support of this bill during this year's Independent Agents Advocacy Week(s).
The bill previously passed the Senate, and will soon be sent to the Governor for action.
This week, our campaign to pass the Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act, which would make photo inspections (CARCOs) optional at the discretion of insurance companies, gained major momentum.
Key Committee Vote Scheduled:
On Friday, our campaign achieved a key milestone when our bill was scheduled for a vote by the Senate Insurance Committee. This marks the first time in history the Senate has voted on this bill. It must pass the committee vote, which will be held on Monday, May 25th, before it can be voted on by the full Senate. The scheduling of this vote follows three months of grassroots advocacy by Big I NY, including emails and meetings with approximately two dozen key Senators. On Friday, Big I NY agents called members of the committee urging them to vote yes on the bill.
Petition Launched, Signatures Needed:
This week, we launched a grassroots petition campaign with the goal of 500 signatures. Help us keep up the pressure and sign the petition today!
Media Campaign Launches:
On Monday, Big I NY, through our NY First Committee, Issued a press release kicking off a statewide media campaign aimed at building support for the Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act. The release was covered in the Insurance Journal, InsuranceNewsNet, and Harlem World Magazine. Throughout the months of April and May, Big I NY will take to the media to amplify our impact, including agent letters to the editor, digital and print media, and broadcast interviews.
Once the bill has cleared a vote by the Insurance Committee, it will be sent to the floor of the Senate, where it must “age" for three days. Then the bill can be brought to a vote by the sponsor's request. Stay tuned for the next steps to get engaged and help us pass the Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act this session!
Today, NY First, Big I NY’s coalition of agents and independent insurance carriers, issued a press release kicking off our public relations campaign aimed at building support for legislation to make auto photo inspections (CARCOs) optional at the discretion of insurers.
The bill, dubbed the Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act (S.6028), passed the New York State Assembly with bipartisan support at the end of March. If enacted, the bill will make it easier for customers to obtain comprehensive and collision coverage, and provide regulatory relief to consumers, independent agents and brokers, and insurance companies.
In the coming month, Big I NY agents and our carrier partners will take to the media to amplify our call to free customers of this needless and burdensome inspection requirement.
Do you have a story to share about this issue? A memorable story of a customer who had difficulty getting an inspection, or worse, lost coverage or had an uncovered loss because they were unable to complete it in time? Email Scott Hobson.
"Every year, auto insurers in New York are required to perform physical inspections of cars to address fraudulent damage to vehicles, resulting in higher premiums for New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, the bill’s sponsor. “While this provision made sense at the time it was enacted, today we have better ways of preventing insurance fraud that are far more cost effective. It is time that insurance companies have the ability to put an end to this antiquated process and pass those savings on to drivers."
“Insurance agents know all too well that mandatory photo inspections are a barrier for many motorists in New York. Making these inspections voluntary at the discretion of insurance carriers will streamline the process of obtaining insurance, helping more New Yorkers get covered and stay covered,” said NY First Co-chair Ron Brunell. “I applaud Assemblyman Zebrowski for passing this bill in the Assembly and Senator Breslin for championing it in the Senate. I am proud to work in unison with the insurance carriers and hope to see this important bill become law."
“Allowing insurers to waive photo inspections will improve access to auto insurance for consumers throughout the state,” said NY First Co-chair Dan Bierbrauer. “The Auto Insurance Consumer Relief Act will help New Yorkers stay insured while saving time and money, and help insurers deliver better results for our customers. I am pleased to be collaborating with the agent and broker community, along with our elected officials in Albany to support this pro-consumer initiative.”
Read the full press release here.
On Thursday, the Big I NY Board of Directors met with senior leadership of the Department of Financial Services, including My Chi To, Executive Deputy Superintendent for Insurance, Sumit Sud, Senior Deputy Superintendent of Insurance, and Ellen Buxbaum, Director of Producer Supervision. Both DFS and Big I NY expressed an interest in working collaboratively to promote the health of the state's insurance industry and protect consumers. We thank the DFS for their interest in partnering with industry stakeholders, and look forward to working with the Department on the issues that are most important to independent agents and our customers.
On Friday, Independent Agents Advocacy Week(s) concluded, wrapping up two weeks of grassroots meetings with Big I NY agents and key state lawmakers. More than fifty agents participated approximately two dozen meetings with legislative leadership and key members of the Senate and Assembly Insurance and Labor committees. The productive meetings focused on key pro-consumer bills, including eliminating mandatory auto photo inspections, repealing the 30-day notice requirement to leave the State Insurance Fund, eliminating the NYC anti-arson application, and streamlining the process for placing commercial coverage in the excess market. Overall, meetings were productive with several legislators committing to co-sponsor or support the various bills. Thank you to all who participated, and stay tuned for more opportunities to get engaged between now an the end of legislative session in June! If you weren't able to join us, you can still help - make a contribution to IAPAC, our political action committee, today!
Agents Advocacy Week(S)
This week, Big I NY member agents from across the state descended on Albany (virtually) to urge lawmakers to support several pro-consumer bills. Agents urged members of the Senate to co-sponsor our bill to make auto photo inspections (CARCOs) optional at the discretion of insurance carriers. This bill recently passed the Assembly for the first time ever, and we are ramping up the pressure to pass the bill through the Senate before the end of session in June.
Our agents also urged for the passage ofbills to eliminate the 30-day notice to withdraw from the State Insurance Fund, eliminate the diligent effort requirement when placing commercial excess coverage, shorten the excess lines affidavit, and repeal the burdensome NYC anti-arson application.
Agents participated in over a dozen meetings with lawmakers this week, with more scheduled next week.
Senate Unanimously Passes Big I NY-Supported Excess Lines Diligent Effort Bill
Also this week, the NY Senate unanimously passed a priority bill to eliminate the requirement to obtain three declinations on commercial excess policies placed through an unaffiliated wholesale broker. The bill now must pass the assembly insurance committee and a vote by the full assembly. Big I NY agents are meeting with key members of the Assembly Insurance committee this week and next to urge passage of this important pro-consumer reform.
State Budget Deal Reached
On Thursday afternoon, Governor Hochul announced that she and the Legislative Leaders have come to a “conceptual agreement" on a $220 billion state budget. Earlier in the day, two of the final budget bills were introduced – Public Protection and Good Government (PPGG) and Revenue. The language of the remaining seven budget bills is still being finalized and they are expected to be introduced later tonight or early tomorrow morning. The Legislature has signaled that they plan to begin voting on the budget bills tonight and hope to finish up voting on the entire budget today.
Some of the most notable provisions included in the PPGG and Revenue bills are:
- Legalizing alcohol-to-go sales;
- The creation of a State Commission to examine the State's alcoholic beverage control laws;
- Requiring polling sites on college campuses;
- Extending the New York City Musical & Theatrical Production Tax Credit;
- Establishing a tax credit for the conversion from grade no. 6 heating oil usage to biodiesel heating oil and geothermal systems;
- Amendments to the State Tax Law permitting deductions for commercial cannabis activity;
- Creation of the Restaurant Return to Work Credit; and
- Implementation of a Gas Sales Tax Holiday.
Some of the issues that the Governor has confirmed will be in the budget, but have not yet had language introduced include:
- Replacing the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government;
- Changes to the State's bail reform laws;
- Funding for a new Buffalo Bills Stadium;
- $800 Million in funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP);
- The authorization of three casino licenses downstate;
- An accelerated tax cut for middle-class families;
- Pay increases for health care workers;
- Expanding tuition aid for part-time students;
- $31.5 billion in school aid;
- An additional $400 million in funding for SUNY and CUNY;
- $7 billion over the next four years to expand child care; and
- $32.8 billion in infrastructure funding over the next five years.
Big I NY and our retained lobbyists will continue to monitor the state budget process as it plays out.
On Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed our bill to make CARCO inspections optional at the discretion of insurance carriers. We thank the bill sponsor, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D, Rockland) for his leadership on this top-priority issue.
This is a historic and important step forward. The bill has never before passed either chamber. The vote is the culmination of years of hard work. You called, you emailed, you met with lawmakers. Together we made the case, and the Assembly has listened.
Now, the bill must pass the Senate, then be signed by the Governor. Tell your Senator to support this critical bill today!
We are pulling out all the stops to get this bill over the finish line before session ends in June. Just this legislative session, Big I NY agents have sent over five hudred emails, met with dozens of lawmakers, and shared their stories in letters to the editor. Next week, we'll kick off Independent Agents Advocacy Week(s), which will give you the opportunity to meet virtually with key Senators on this bill and others. Sign up today!
Big I NY Applauds Senate Passage of Excess Lines Affidavit Simplification Bill:
This week the New York Senate passed Big I NY-supported legislation to streamline the affidavit required when placing coverage in the excess market. The bill, S.8127 sponsored by Senator Neil Breslin (D, Albany), would reduce significant burdens on agents by streamlining the reporting of declinations by reducing declination data elements from twenty-one to nine.
New York is one of only 13 states/jurisdictions that require declination information for each policy to be filed with the state or a stamping office. Of these states New York filings are the most burdensome, with seven required data elements per declination. Most states that require declination filings demand no more than three data elements. Since three declinations must be filed with seven data elements each, New York filings contain 21 mandatory data elements, 40% more than the next most burdensome state. We thank Senator Breslin for his leadership on this important issue. The bill now must be passed by the Assembly and signed by the Governor before becoming law.
Budget Negotiations Underway:
The Senate and Assembly have released their “One-House" budget proposals. Most notably, both houses have rejected the Governor's proposal to ban the use of non-compete agreements for employees earning less than the median wage, and narrow what is permissible for higher-earning employees. Big I NY opposed this proposal. Now that both Houses have released their One-House Proposals, they have begun negotiations with the Governor to determine a final budget, which legally must be passed by April 1st. The Governor has said it is her intention to have the budget passed by that deadline or not long after it.
Read a full analysis of the One-House budgets prepared by our lobby firm, Shenker Russo & Clark, here.
HERO Act Designation Ends:
The New York State Department of Labor last week announced that employers in the state are no longer required to implement their airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plans. The plans, required by the New York State HERO Act, must be designed to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace.
When the Delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 swept through the country late last summer, the state Department of Health designated the disease as "a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health. " That declaration triggered the requirement for all employers to implement their plans. The Health Department ended that declaration on March 17, 2022.
Your agencies are no longer required to implement your prevention plans, though you may continue to do so at your option. The law requires all employers to have plans updated and ready to implement at any time in case of another designation by the Health Department.