Insurance, school bills wind up on dead bills list

Some Coast-backed legislation died with a deadline late Tuesday, including a homeowners’ insurance “policyholders bill of rights” and a plan to push back the school start date.

House Bill 563 would have codified language from a court decision saying the burden of proof is on an insurance company to prove an exclusion in a policy applies to a claim. The measure had passed the House, but Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Eugene S. Clarke, R-Hollandale, didn’t take the bill up before Tuesday’s deadline.

Clarke has said he believes the key to solving insurance problems is increasing competition to lower prices, not more regulation. He has let similar proposals die in recent years.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant also had heartburn over the bill. He said it would duplicate some of the state Insurance Department’s version of a policyholder’s bill of rights implemented in 2007. The insurance department also didn’t back the House bill, saying its version is sufficient.

Other measures that died:

n Senate Bill 3065, which would give the head of the Department of Marine Resources power to make rulings on permit violations.

DMR Director Bill Walker had asked for authority to rule on certain violations without bringing them before the full Commission on Marine Resources.

Such violations — most often for private piers or other structures being built a little larger than permitted — are discussed in monthly public meetings.

House Marine Resources Committee Chair Frances Fredericks, D-Gulfport, and some open-government groups worried the bill might foster secrecy. The measure died in Fredericks’ committee.

n House Bill 624, which would push back the school start date to Sept. 1 or later. Tourism officials perennially support the measure.

n House Bill 687, aimed at reducing price gouging after a natural disaster.

It would have prevented owners of hotels and motels from being sued if they cancel reservations to make room for people displaced by a natural disaster. It also would have regulated how much merchants can charge for goods and services.

n House Bill 539, which would clarify state law to say citizens can record law enforcement officers.

The bill’s author, Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, said he has represented people arrested for doing so, even though it’s not against the law.

The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.

By MICHAEL NEWSOM – mmnewsom@sunherald.com
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