Two years ago, the topic filling phone lines to state Rep. Cory Williams’ office shifted.
“My primary call was, ‘What are you doing with the earthquakes?’” said Williams, D-Stillwater. “We’ve had damage to our house. The tile in our kitchen was less than a year old and it has a crack running all the way through it.”
Like most of his constituents, the damage didn’t meet his insurance deductible.
“Unless there’s some kind of catastrophic damage, I can’t meet the $5,000 deductible, plus 25 percent actual damages. It’s a pretty damn big hurdle to clear.”
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So, Williams introduced House Bill 1571, the Oklahoma Earthquake Insurance Act of 2015.
The bill prohibited an insurance policy be issued for a residential property “unless the named insured offered coverage for loss caused by the peril of earthquake.”
The bill would have mandated an insurance company to provide earthquake insurance, details of the coverage — including cost and a list of what was, and was not, covered — within 10 days of purchasing a policy.
“I was trying to do what we do with uninsured motorists: You had to be aware of the coverage and the terms,” Williams said. “It had to detail if man-made quakes were covered or not. I wanted people to know what they were signing up for.”
The bill was never heard.
It was assigned to the House Insurance Committee but Chair Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, did not hear the legislation, which did not make it through the legislative process.
Mulready, a former top executive for large insurance corporations, said he didn’t hear the bill because the mandated insurance companies offer coverage.
“If it was a notification, we could have discussions about that, but I am opposed to mandate to a private company what they must offer and sell,” Mulready said. “The government should not dictate what a private company must sell. Some insurance companies may not want to be in the earthquake business at all.”
Mulready said a notification bill is one thing, but mandating an item is a “hang-up” for him.
A similar piece of legislation was filed by Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City.
House Bill 1866 would have created the Oklahoma Earthquake Insurance Act of 2015. It was assigned to the House Rules Committee and was not heard.
Both measures are still eligible to be heard during the Second Session of the 55th Legislature, which begins in February 2016.
Summars is area reporter for the News & Eagle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.