USA – California lawmakers in an announcement today with the state insurance commissioner put forth several bills and proposals intended to ease the recovery process for wildfire survivors.
The announcement came in Sacramento where Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones gathered with state legislators who have introduced some of the bills.
“These are very common sense, reasonable proposals,” Jones said.
Most of the ideas in the package will not have any effect on survivors of this year’s wildfires but would affect survivors of future disasters, Jones said.
Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Ukiah, introduced Senate Bill 897, which seeks to amend the coverage for contents, allowing policyholders to settle for 80 percent of the contents limit without having to compile a home inventory during a declared state of emergency.
The bill, if it becomes law, would be retroactive for the North Bay fires and the Thomas Fire in Southern California.
Some insurance companies have already dropped the requirement to provide an inventory, McGuire said.
Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, has proposed SB 894, which among other things, would require insurance companies to guarantee two renewals or renewal protection for 24 months, whichever is greater.
Also, insured people could collect additional living expenses benefits for 36 months rather than 24 months.
Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, has introduced AB 1722, which would extend the time to rebuild and collect full replacement costs from 24 to 36 months after a declared disaster.
Aguiar-Curry introduced the bill because often after a disaster, there is a shortage of construction workers and an increased demand for construction workers in areas affected by the disaster.
Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-Marin County, introduced three bills. AB 1797 would require insurance companies to perform a replacement cost estimate for both new policies and at each annual renewal.
“One major issue is underinsurance,” Levine said.
The yearly estimate would keep replacement costs up with rising costs of construction over the life of the policy.
Levine, when he looked at his homeowner’s policy, said he thought, “Wow, this is a woefully inadequate number to rebuild.”
AB 1799 would require insurers to provide residents with a copy of their complete policy upon request, while AB 1800 would allow an insured person to collect the full replacement cost of their property whether they decide to rebuild at the same location, rebuild at another location or purchase a home at a new location.
Assemblymember Monique Limon, D-Santa Barbara, who was not present at the announcement, is proposing a bill, which has yet to be introduced, that would add the consolidated debris removal program to the insurance code.
The bill would require insurance companies to participate in the program after a wildfire or other disaster, but Limon’s office couldn’t immediately say how.
According to Sonoma County officials, the Army Corps of Engineers has coordinated the cleanup of 865,872 tons of debris from the North Bay wildfires, with 694,607 tons from Sonoma County.
Jones did not say whether insurance rates would go up or if coverage would drop because of the package of bills and proposals.
He said the state’s insurance market is robust and thinks it can accommodate the package without significant impacts.