Bentley to call special session

Published 11:08 pm Thursday, February 17, 2011

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Gov. Robert Bentley has renewed a campaign pledge to call a special session of the state legislature to find a solution for coastal residents seeking homeowners insurance.

“I have made a commitment, and I’ve been keeping my commitments,” the governor told the Mobile Press-Register.

Bentley spoke a special session after meeting Wednesday in Montgomery with members of the Homeowners Insurance Initiative.

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The citizens group is seeking lower prices and more options in the homeowners insurance market in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Homeowners are concerned because the cost of insuring homes in the coastal region has skyrocketed after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina rocked the area in 2004 and 2005. The governor said the coastal insurance issue would be resolved by the end of the year, said group member Stan Virden. Yet Bentley’s promises to resolve the issue could set him against insurance companies, including State Farm Insurance Cos. and Alfa Mutual Group.

A State Farm spokesman said Alabama’s largest homeowners insurer continues to “have concerns” with what the citizens’ group and state Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, want to push in the Legislature.

The bill is being called the “clarity bill” and would order insurers to release data, by ZIP code, on premiums collected and losses paid from different disasters going back to 1990. Some insurers argue that the data could lead to misinterpretations.

, partly because future hurricanes could be more severe than the ones Alabama has experienced since 1990.

Bentley said he would seek a consensus on the best solutions before calling the special session. He also said he would consider appointing a commission to recommend a solution.

“We need to have a clear objective in mind,” Bentley said.