During the conference, independent insurance agents from across the U.S. will share their perspectives with legislators on issues important to the independent agency system.
The annual Big “I" Legislative Conference will take place April 26-28 at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel. During the conference, independent insurance agents and brokers from across the country will share their perspectives with legislators on issues important to the independent agency system.
This year's conference will focus on issues that have the potential to have a real impact on an agent's bottom line, so your participation is crucial. Here are five issues facing independent agents that will be a focus at this year's conference:
1) Ensure state implementation of federal data privacy standards. Congress established data privacy standards for insurance agencies, insurers and other financial institutions with the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) in 1999. The GLBA requires financial entities to disclose information-sharing policies and inform consumers of their ability to stop the sharing of protected information with certain third parties.
GLBA adopted a framework based upon functional regulation that appropriately empowered state insurance commissioners to implement and enforce these privacy protections for the insurance market. However, Congress is now considering significant revisions to these requirements.
It is important to leave implementation and enforcement of federal privacy standards in our industry to state insurance regulators and not cede authority to federal regulators. Additionally, federal privacy legislation must not include a private right of action, which would allow trial lawyers and judges to become de facto regulators and enforce the law through litigation. Critically, any new mandates must also be clear, reasonable and workable, as well as recognize the differences between large and small businesses.
2) Maintain small business tax fairness and incentivize mitigation through tax credits. The Big “I" supports legislation that would make permanent the 20% small business deduction (Section 199A) passed as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.
The deduction, which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2025, is heavily relied upon by many Big “I" members and their clients to expand their small businesses, hire more employees and better serve their communities. Pass-through entities have also factored this deduction into their operations so its expiration would result in a tax increase, create an unlevel playing field and put pass-throughs at a disadvantage to those filing taxes at the corporate rate.
Additionally, the Big “I" encourages Congress to support legislation that promotes risk mitigation through tax credits. As a result, the Big “I" asks Congress to pass legislation to provide targeted tax credits to individuals and businesses that proactively strengthen their homes and buildings against damages caused by natural disasters, such as wildfires, flooding and wind.
3) Oppose the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noncompete proposal. The FTC has proposed a national prohibition on the use of most noncompete agreements. Although this proposal is targeted at employment agreements that block workers from securing employment or starting a competing business and is not intended to apply to other restrictive covenants utilized by many insurance agencies, the FTC's actions are concerning.
This sweeping proposal is unprecedented and would preempt the laws of nearly every state. The FTC is asserting it has the power to issue this and similar rules regulating competition but only Congress can enact such significant changes in the law and never empowered the FTC in this manner. The proposed ban includes a lone, narrow exemption that would allow the use of noncompete clauses when a business or its assets are purchased, and the person restricted by the agreement has at least a 25% ownership interest in the entity being sold.
If the FTC moves forward with this proposal, it must broaden this exemption for business sales, add other exceptions, such as some for highly compensated workers, and clearly protect the use of nonsolicitation and nondisclosure agreements.
4) Extend and reform the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). With the NFIP extended through Sept. 30, 2023, the Big “I" supports a long-term reauthorization of a modernized NFIP that would increase take-up rates, both in the NFIP and the private market.
Specifically, the Big “I" supports legislation that would allow for private flood insurance to satisfy continuous coverage requirements and ensures that if consumers leave the NFIP for the private market and must later return, they can do so without penalty. The Big “I" also opposes any policies that would harm the Write-Your-Own (WYO) Program, including WYO reimbursement reductions, and would negatively impact the sale of flood insurance. Further, with Risk Rating 2.0 now implemented, it is essential for FEMA to clearly communicate with agents so they can explain how rates are set and changes in premiums to their customers.
5) Protect the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP). The current Farm Bill also expires on Sept. 30, 2023. As Congress negotiates a new five-year bill, it is critical to support policies strengthening the stability and effectiveness of the FCIP. Over the past several years, crop insurance has helped farmers navigate the challenges posed by weather disasters, supply chain disruptions and uncertain markets.
The Big “I" supports a strong and robust FCIP that provides certainty for our farmers and communities and will continue to oppose legislative and regulatory efforts to weaken the efficient and effective private sector delivery of crop insurance.
With a busy year ahead, the Big “I" is looking forward to having agents and brokers from across the country advocating on Capitol Hill. Join us in April to bring your message to the Capitol! Visit the dedicated Legislative Conference webpage to register, view more information about the Conference and see the full schedule of events.
Teddie Norton Reilly is Big “I" director of government affairs operations.