Monday, 05 February 2007 12:32

New California Insurance Commissioner committs to non-partisanship

Steve Poizner took the Oath of Office on January 8 and became California’s new Insurance Commissioner with 52 percent of the vote. In his inauguration speech, Poizner committed to running the Department of Insurance in a “non-partisan manner, independent and citizen-focused.”

The moderate Republican said that it is essential to have an insurance marketplace where competition is robust, and insurance companies are held accountable for solvency, for claims practices, and for representations and recommendations they make.

 Members of the California Autobody Association were present for the inaugural event, and plan to formally meet with the commissioner to discuss labor rate surveys, steering and paint and material capping.

 In Poizner’s victory speech given in Silicon Valley on November 7, the high-tech entrepreneur addressed the first item of importance on his agenda as “something that will absolutely shock some folks in Sacramento.”

 “Tomorrow, my first order of business is calling the Assembly Speaker, the Senate President Pro-Tem and the Governor and letting them know that I want to work with them to find bipartisan solutions to improve our insurance system and drive down workers’ comp prices . . . and make this office as non-partisan as possible,” Poizner said.

This is his first elected office, although he has long been active in public and civic affairs.

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 Poizner listed three major initiatives as his focus, among them the independence of the Department. He said, “…this office must always be fiercely independent from those being regulated. I didn't take money from insurance companies in my campaign. I won't accept their donations during my tenure. To do so would be like refereeing a game while being on one of the team's payroll. When I return to Sacramento, I'll ask the Legislature to pass a new law banning contributions to my office from those who are regulated by, or do business with, the Department of Insurance.”

 The Insurance Commissioner oversees the California Department of Insurance, which has over 1,300 employees and a $200 million budget.

 “The Insurance Commisioner is one of the very few jobs that has a very real impact on the well-being of every individual, family and business inthe state of California,” Poizner said in his inaugaration speech.

 Poizner succeeds John Garamendi, who served as Insurance Commisioner for eight years. Key executive staff members from the previous administration, including Chief Deputy Rick Baum and General Counsel Gary Cohen will remain in office short term to enable a smooth transition.

 During his term, Garamendi brought more than $1.5 billion savings to California Insurance policyholders. He worked towards a competitive insurance industry and Poizner shares in that vision.

 “I think it's fair to say that you and your fellow Californians have taken out a four-year policy on me,” Poizner said. “Here's what that policy entitles you to: an Insurance Commissioner guided by a nonpartisan compass . . . committed to driving down the cost of insurance for everyone . . . and doing what it takes to prepare for the future.”

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