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Leonard makes auto insurance ‘rate relief’ a priority

September 12, 2017

Article courtesy MIRS News Service

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) is on board with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s auto insurance proposal to mandate 30 percent policy cuts, hospital fee schedules for car wreck victims and personal injury protection options (PIP), MIRS has learned.

Even though Senate leader Arlan Meekhof  (R-West Olive) made it clear to reporters that any plan that mandates companies cut rates is “dead” in the Senate, Duggan is pledging to deliver the Democratic votes needed to pass auto insurance reform in the House, according to information MIRS received Wednesday. 

Leonard is working with Duggan on changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance law with the goal of lowering Michigan’s highest-in-the-nation. 

Asked about his support for Duggan’s plan, Leonard said, “I am focused on what happens here in the House and the negotiations we have been having.  My priority is to provide rate relief to our hardworking citizens. I am as determined as ever to get that done.” 

MIRS caught up with Leonard Wednesday morning after a widely attended fundraiser at Karoub’s Governor’s room. He declined to confirm any of the details outlined in the MIRS report on the 30 percent rate cut. 

“I’m not going to negotiate in the media,” Leonard began. He did explain that he is fully committed to rate relief this fall because of what he heard over the summer from citizens. “They are fed up and sick of paying high rates; the highest in the country.” 

Duggan has made it clear that if there is no rate cut, there won’t be any no fault changes and on that point Leonard said, “Oh, absolutely. We need a rate reduction deal for our citizens . . . and I am pledged to do that.” 

Regarding the disagreement with his senate counterpart, Leonard said, “I can’t speak on behalf of anybody else” as he indicated he would talk with Meekhof. 

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Meekhof reiterated his feelings that he opposes “Anything that interrupts the free market” and that Duggan’s proposal would be “price fixing.” 

Meekhof said he’d recently seen Duggan and noted that the Mayor seemed optimistic about prospects for his 30 percent rate cut plan. 

“I said, ‘good luck,'” Meekhof quipped. 

Regarding no-fault reform, Meekhof told reporters he would prefer something along the lines of the plan that nearly came together during the last lame duck session. 

Adding another twist to this story, the Senate Insurance Committee chair is breaking ranks with the majority leader on this subject.   

“I’m open to that discussion of a 30 percent rate reduction,” said Sen. Joe Hune (R-Hamburg Twp.). He said he thinks lawmakers can get there with other reforms as part of the package. Reminded that the insurance companies want the free market to determine the rates, he counters, “Of course they say that,” as he laughed. “I don’t agree with it (and) I’m completely open to that” rate slice. 

However, a Republican member of Hune’s committee is not. 

“To set a goal of 30 percent is unrealistic,” said Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth). 

He urges the Mayor to revisit his failed Detroit-only no-fault plan because “lawmakers can’t adjust rates . . . it’s a hard thing for lawmakers to say.” He said he believes the market should set rates and agrees with Meekhof’s proclamation that Duggan’s idea of mandatory rate cuts is DOA in the Senate. 

Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing) said he’s awaiting the details from the Mayor, but is in step with the goal. 

“Of course, there should be a rate reduction. People need to benefit from it and not the insurance companies,” he said. 

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