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PIA Works to Advance Amendment Changing Provision in ONI

Over the past several weeks, PIA has been quietly lobbying on Capitol Hill for an important change in legislation we oppose, but that may pass....
May 12, 2010

Over the past several weeks, PIA has been quietly lobbying on Capitol Hill for an important change in legislation we oppose, but that may pass. We have been advocating for a key change in a provision in the financial regulatory reform bill being debated in the Senate, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (S. 3217).

In a section calling for creation of an Office of National Insurance (ONI), there is a subsection that requires the ONI to conduct a study of insurance regulation, including the supposed benefits of federal insurance regulation, and report to Congress with recommendations in 18 months.

PIA has been meeting with Senators and their staffs to suggest that having the ONI conduct such a study is not a good idea because it would not be objective. In essence, ONI would be studying its own role in insurance regulation and advising Congress on whether the ONI should have an expanded mandate.

In our meetings, PIA has proposed that the bill's language be changed to designate that the study be performed and recommendations made to Congress by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO), rather than a newly-formed ONI.

On Monday May 10, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment to S. 3217 to replace the ONI with the GAO as the entity conducting the study. Sen. Merkley was joined in introducing the amendment by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

What It Means to Agents: The idea to have the ONI conduct a study of whether insurance should be regulated by the federal government - in effect, a study of itself - originated last year in the House. Supporters of an Optional Federal Charter led by Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) inserted the provision in a House bill, which was later incorporated into the Senate bill.

PIA believes that having the ONI conduct such a study would produce a biased recommendation favoring federal insurance regulation over state insurance regulation. In contrast, PIA believes that the GAO would be fair and objective in conducting such a study.

PIA will now focus its efforts on this amendment. There are hunderds of amendments to S. 3217 that have been filed and we are hopeful this one will be given an up-or-down vote.