TWIA reform bill approved by Senate committee

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 22, 2011, 9:00am


A Texas Senate committee on Wednesday morning approved a bill to reform the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, but it is different from the one passed by the House last week and could send lawmakers into another special session.

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. John Carona of Dallas, approved a version of House Bill 3. Approved by the House on June 15, it would prohibit policyholders from obtaining more than actual damages from lawsuits against TWIA.

The House version also subjects policyholders to binding arbitration.

But in the Senate committee's version approved today, TWIA policyholders would not be subject to binding arbitration and claimants would be able to sue for twice their actual damages as well as consequential damages.

Corona told the Texas Tribune that he stands behind the Senate version and was prepared for a fight, even if that means another special session of the legislature.

Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who authored the House bill, said Corona's version is a step backward and puts "money in the hands of lawyers," the Texas Tribune reported.

Gov. Rick Perry has said he wants the TWIA issue resolved before any major hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast this season.

Some lawmakers say special interest groups are making it difficult to come to an agreement. Texans for Lawsuit Reform supports limits to high-dollar lawsuits against TWIA, while the Texas Trial Lawyers Association wants fewer restrictions placed on damages.

Lawmakers have until June 29 to come to an agreement before Perry would have to call a second special session.

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