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Fix Texas windstorm even without casinos

December 18, 2018

State Rep. Joe Deshotel wants to provide more state funding for the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, and no coastal resident would deny that it’s needed. Yet Deshotel is trying to do this by legalizing casino gambling and diverting some of the profits to the windstorm agency, and that approach will not succeed.

Even Deshotel, D-Beaumont, might admit privately that he doesn’t have the votes in the House or Senate to legalize casinos — just as he didn’t in the 2015 session, when he proposed a similar bill. But veteran lawmakers like Deshotel know that sometimes it takes several attempts to move the Legislature on something controversial, from concealed carry to the end of straight-ticket voting.

What really matters here, however, is the reason for this bill — generating more money to boost the state’s underfunded windstorm insurance agency. If it takes a high-profile issue like casino gambling to focus attention on this longstanding need, it’s worth the effort.

The Windstorm Insurance Association has been called the insurer of last resort for coastal residents, and it’s better than nothing. But over the years its rates have crept too high and its response after disasters has frustrated countless policy holders. Like any agency in state government, that kind of low performance cannot be tolerated.

But if the Legislature and Department of Insurance could encourage (or require) more insurance carriers in Texas to offer windstorm coverage, fewer coastal residents would need to rely on TWIA. With more windstorm policies, either through private carriers or TWIA or both, premiums would stabilize. In turn, those affordable rates would encourage more residents and businesses to get that coverage, keeping the positive momentum going. That’s the way insurance works, whether on cars or buildings — sharing risks to help everyone.

If lawmakers won’t support Deshotel’s casino bill — and again, they probably won’t — then they should focus on getting private carriers to help more coastal residents protect themselves. Other Gulf Coast states require major insurance companies to offer windstorm coverage with their broad range of coverage such as life, home, auto, etc. If these companies knew that was a requirement for operating in the large and lucrative Texas market, they’d get on board.

More private carriers have been doing this lately, and the uptick is welcome. But coastal residents need more than good luck or a friendly agent to get this basic coverage. It should be affordable to all of them. Joe Deshotel is trying to make that happen, and more of his colleagues in the House and Senate should, too.

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