Insurance agents bill with powerful backing becomes law in Georgia


Lawmakers waited until 12:01 a.m. on the final night of the 2018 General Assembly session to pass insurance legislation that was a priority of a prominent House leader, and Gov. Nathan Deal waited until the final few hours of his signing period before making sure it became law.

Deal signed the measure, House Bill 64, along with dozens of other piece of legislation Tuesday on the final day he could do so.

The bill’s passage and Deal’s signature ended a three-year fight to pass legislation making sure insurance agents receive a commission when they sell health coverage.

The measure was a priority of powerful House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, a veteran insurance agent who has complained that some health insurers were shirking agents for the services they provide customers.

A similar bill pushed by Meadows to set a minimum commission for agents was scuttled in 2016 after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised questions about the persistent issue of part-time lawmakers pushing legislation that helps their profession.

The House Rules Committee decides what bills get a vote, and as its chairman, Meadows is possibly the second-most-powerful member of the chamber, behind Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Meadows’ name was dropped as a co-sponsor of HB 64 last year. Its sponsor, state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, said it would require health insurance companies to pay agents a commission in many situations. But it did not specify an amount, unlike the previous version, which set a 5 percent minimum commission.

As is typical of controversial legislation, lawmakers waited until the last minute to pass it. Only two other bills passed the House after HB 64 as the session was rushed to a close.

Blackmon’s “explanation” to colleagues of what they were voting on took 16 seconds.

Republican lawmakers have long criticized government attempts to involve itself in the marketplace, particularly on wage issues. And the fact that the idea came from a powerful House leader who sells insurance for a living raised questions. That is what helped stall the bill in 2016 and 2017.



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