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The Tuscaloosa hearing at the University of Alabama was the third of five hearings around the state. Last month, more than 700 people attended a previous hearing in Mobile with many expressing anger over the price of their property insurance.
John Caylor, a member of the commission representing northern Alabama, expressed the importance of having better turnouts at the hearings.
“We do need to hear the public’s input. This is the public’s government, and we are to respond as best we can to the public’s views,” Caylor said.
One person who did speak Monday was Johnny Chaney of Fairhope. He dropped homeowners insurance in 2005 when his annual premium was $2,400, he said, because he hadn’t had much damage from past storms and decided it was too expensive to keep. However, now that his home is paid for, he worries about what could happen if a storm does hit his house sometime in the future.
“I’m at the mercy of FEMA if a storm does come through and destroys my home,” Chaney said.
Alabama’s Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission was set up by Gov. Robert Bentley to study and improve Alabama’s homeowners’ insurance market.
The 31-person commission, chaired by Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, is comprised of insurance company representatives, state legislators, community members and others from across Alabama. At each hearing, members listen to the public’s concerns regarding the cost of insurance.
The plan is to take what the commission learns from the public and through discussions and make a series of recommendations as to how the Alabama legislature can reform property insurance to make it more affordable. Michelle Kurtz, one of the commission members, said she hopes the outcome of the commission’s work will be something that “parallels” what the people feel.
“There should be a binding document–I call it a living document–between this commission and the people,” she said in an interview after the hearing.
The commission was originally meant to address the insurance market woes experienced in coastal Alabama, but Bentley expanded the focus to the entire state following the spring tornadoes amid fears that insurance rates could rise and choices decline.