Difficulties in finding a way to fund the state’s Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and a number of lawsuits has caused Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to ask a legislative committee to study what shutting the state agency down would look like.
Dewhurst told the Senate’s Committee on Business and Commerce that the state should no longer be in the insurance business.
“We always talk about we shouldn’t be competing with the private sector," Dewhurst said. "We’re competing with the private sector; we’re operating a $77 billion insurance company and that scares me.”
Lawmakers began to take notice when the agency couldn’t pay policyholder claims related to two 2008 hurricanes. And then in 2013 attorneys representing the Brownsville ISD filed a lawsuit against the state and uncovered hundreds of racist emails between senior TWIA officials regarding the school district's claim.
State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, questioned Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Julie Rathgeber about her decision to retain some of the employees responsible for circulating these emails throughout the department.
WHITMIRE: “We all have a track record that we bring to the job and we have, in her instance, a very offensive email done on state time. And now you hire her and allow her to stay on at the insurance department. Yeah, she brought a record with her that you discovered and it was very offensive."
RATHGABER: "Yes sir. I’m not sure we have grounds to fire her from TDI.”
Dewhurst said he’d like the Senate to come up with a long-term exit strategy that involves moving policyholders into the commercial market over a 3-5 year period. He’s hoping state lawmakers are able to pass legislation in 2015.