After some initial good progress in moving federal legislation to modernize the Liability Risk Retention Act (LRRA), a new rhetorical roadblock has been raised.
The Risk Retention Modernization Act (H.R. 2126) includes a dispute resolution provision whereby RRGs who believe they are being illegally regulated in non-domiciliary states can access the equivalent of a federal arbitration process as an alternative to initiating costly legal action.
An earlier version of the legislation provided that this dispute resolution mechanism would be administered within the Treasury Department due to technical jurisdiction requirements, but left discretion Treasury to fit this function in as part their exiting organizational chart.
Fast forward to the recent passage of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, which among other things created a new Federal Insurance Office (FIO) to be housed within the Treasury Department. As a result of this development, the current version of the legislation specifically designates FIO as the entity responsible to arbitrate RRG disputes with state regulators.
Supporters of the legislation have always known that there would be some push back in Congress from members concerned that such a dispute resolution would infringe on the authority of state insurance regulators. Of course, the opposite is actually true and this position has gained traction in recent months.
But just as the policy argument has largely been settled, at least one member of Congress key to the legislation’s eventual message has raised a new concern. In a meeting earlier this week to discuss the legislation, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), chairwoman of the House Subcommittee of Capital Markets within the House Financial Services Committee, voiced strong concerns about this new responsibility assigned to the FIO.
Her objection was not really specific to RRG regulation, but rather reflects a broader view held by many Republicans that the FIO is being given too much authority. In hindsight, this objection was not particularly surprising.
While PPACA has garnered the lion share of public attention for those critical of government expanding its regulatory reach, the distaste for Dodd-Frank is significant among most Republican members of Congress. As a result, any manifestation of this law, such as the FIO, can spark a reflexive push back as demonstrated by Rep. Biggert’s comments.
It is important to note that this new wrinkle does not mean that H.R. 2126 cannot pass. The lobbying process on Capitol Hill is inherently complicated and this is just the latest example.
In the end, if the case can be made that the practical advantages this legislation offers to small and mid-sized companies trump more abstract political concerns, the LRRA will be successfully modernized.
Stay tuned for additional inside reports on how this legislation is progressing on Capitol Hill.