An internal email sent back in July by Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman is keeping lawmakers from focusing on productive steps to reforming the troubled Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA).

The Austin American-Statesman wrote this week that it obtained the document, which might suggest a mandate for private insurers to write coastal policies and permission to raise rates on the coast. The problem is that the newspaper tried to interpret an email before definitively determining its intended meaning. In response, the coastal community, insurance industry, consumer groups and lawmakers are distracted by old news instead of focusing solely on the future.

The upcoming legislative session offers many opportunities to steer TWIA in the right direction. Instead of forcing private companies to write on the coast, which would just tempt them to leave the state, TWIA should limit its own coverage to primary residential dwellings valued at $500,000 and below.

Banning expensive homes and secondary homes from TWIA coverage will bring the agency back to its primary role as insurer of last resort. Additionally, properties in wetland areas should not be eligible for TWIA coverage in order to protect the natural barriers to a hurricane’s destructive forces. Finally, homes should be required to meet the minimum standards for structural safety and soundness as stringent as the current IBC/IRC model code. Texans should be encouraged to utilize federal programs such as Community Development Block Grants and the Department of Energy’s Home Retrofit in order to bring their homes up to these safety standards.

Those interested in TWIA must focus on the task at hand and be prepared to move forward in a productive manner for the sake of the entire state, not letting dividing forces distract from ideas that can benefit everyone.

Featured Publications