After years of debate and a few false starts, lawmakers and legislative leaders are set to take up auto insurance this fall. But the House and Senate leaders could be on a collision course.
House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, wants to start the discussion on auto no-fault when lawmakers get back into session this fall. One of the key things he wants to address is cost savings.
“Everywhere I go, one of the top two or three issues that everybody wants to talk about is what are we going to do to lower their insurance rates here in Michigan,” said Leonard, who attended events across the state over the summer.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said another attempt at auto no-fault is on the Senate’s to-do list as well. He hears about it too, he said, but “I’m not hearing it in the context of how the price is lower.”
He’s looking at something like the compromise the legislature almost landed on last year, which would institute a fraud authority and make changes to attendant care and assigned claims. The changes last year ultimately failed to pass, but experts at the time warned it likely would not result in immediate savings.
But those items are a big chunk of the issue, Meekhof said, and “I think it will highlight where all the costs are.”
Leonard, meanwhile, is looking forward to starting the discussion this fall around how to lower costs. He said the legislature is fortunate to have Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as an interested party on the issue, and he went to a forum with Duggan and Rep. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, where auto insurance was the top issue.
“This is really hurting the average citizen and something we need to address, and lower rates for them,” Leonard said.
Historically, much of the debate has been over just how to do that. Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, said that his district is 15 miles from the border with Ohio, which enjoys much cheaper auto insurance. He pointed to the unlimited, lifetime coverage Michigan makes every motorist buy.
“This is a tax on people that choose to buy insurance. That’s all this is. You’re forced to get all this coverage that you maybe need or maybe don’t need,” Bellino said.
Rep. Tim Sneller, D-Burton, said he supports no-fault but it’s been in place a long time. He’s concerned about things like the number of uninsured motorists, but wants to be cautious not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.