Weekly Dispatch: March 18, 2021

March 18, 2021

News

Conn.: Discrimination against natural hairstyles prohibited

Gov. Ned Lamont signed The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act last week, which prohibits discrimination—including in the workplace and other public accommodations—based on hairstyles that are commonly associated with people of color. These hairstyles include afros, afro puffs, Bantu knots, braids, cornrows, locs, twists, headwraps and wigs. According to Lamont’s office, “…When a person of color has a job interview or simply goes to work, they should never be judged based on anything other than skill, work product, commitment, dedication and work ethic. This measure is critical to helping build a more equitable society.”

N.H.: State of Emergency extended again

Gov. Chris Sununu announced on March 5, 2021, that he extended the State of Emergency another 21 days, until Friday, March 26, 2021. This is the 17th extension of the State of Emergency that was declared in Executive Order 2020-04. To keep you updated on the latest COVID-19-related news, see the PIANH COVID-19 resource page and be sure to read your PIA Northeast publications. Recent updates include: Sununu announces launch of New Hampshire Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

N.J.: Bill to increase minimum PAP requirements introduced in state Assembly

A-5470, which would increase the minimum insurance requirements in a personal auto policy, was introduced in the state Assembly last week. Currently, under New Jersey law, the minimum limits under a standard automobile insurance policy are $15,000 for an accident causing bodily injury or death to a single person, and $30,000 for an accident causing the injury or death of more than one person, and $5,000 for damage to property in any one accident. This legislation would increase those limits to $50,000/$100,000/$25,000, respectively. The legislation has been referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance committee for consideration. This bill is just one bill that has been introduced this session that addresses this issue.

N.J.: Cannabis testing bill introduced in state Senate

Legislation (S-3525) that would create certain workplace protections for legal cannabis use was introduced in the state Senate last week. Under the terms of the bill, employers would be prohibited from drug testing for cannabis during the pre-employment screening—except when the employer could demonstrate a need to do so based on the requirements of a federal contract. In addition, the bill would prevent an employer from prohibiting employees from using cannabis products during non-work hours—except under limited circumstances involving law enforcement, transportation and construction. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill was introduced after last month’s signing of legislation that legalized personal use cannabis for adults.

N.J.: Pay-to-play annual disclosure due March 30

New Jersey’s pay-to-play law requires insurance agencies to file electronic annual disclosure statements by Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Insurance agencies that have received $50,000 or more in the aggregate during the 2020 calendar year—through contracts with a public entity or public entities—must file the annual disclosure statement that lists various political contributions made during the year. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission expects that there will be a significant number of agencies that will file statements this year, and the commission suggests that those agents who need to file a disclosure statement do it early. After completing the form, it can be submitted electronically to NJELEC. The NJELEC’s website includes instructions on how to complete the form and other helpful information on the state’s pay-to-play laws.

N.J.: Why carriers send proposed rate increase notices directly to insureds

Every so often, an insurance company in New Jersey sends out notices to policyholders about a proposed rate increase across policies offered in the state. This is because New Jersey regulates insurance rates closely to ensure the stability of insurance companies and affordability for policyholders. When a company submits new rates with a proposed increase greater than 7%, then the state requires the company to send notice to all policyholders of the proposed increase. Do you have more questions about these proposed rate increase notices? See PIANJ’s FAQ on the topic, or contact the PIA Industry Resource Center via email or by phone at (800) 424-4244.

Vt.: Gov. Scott signs unemployment bill into law

Gov. Phil Scott announced yesterday that he signed S.110 into law. The bill extends the eligibility for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. According to Scott’s office, “As more Vermonters return to work, this bill supports those unable to do so through no fault of their own by extending federally funded benefits, retroactively to the beginning of this year.”

Advocacy

PPP Extension Act passes U.S. House

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Payment Protection Program Act of 2021, with a vote of 415-3 last night. If it passes the U.S. Senate and is signed, the expiration of the PPP would be extended to Monday, May 31, 2021, and it would provide an additional 30 days (beyond May 31) for the Small Business Administration to process loans that were submitted before the new deadline. Currently, the PPP is set to expire on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. If it expires, businesses will no longer be eligible to apply for federal funding as a result of economic hardship from the pandemic. PIA is urging the U.S. Senate to pass this bill as soon as possible to ensure the PPP does not expire at the end of this month.

Conn.: PIACT hosts Q&A with insurance commissioner

PIACT hosted a virtual Q&A last week with Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew N. Mais. PIACT and CTYIP members were invited to ask Mais about the state of the industry and where it is heading. Mais and other Connecticut Insurance Department representatives gave insight into the emerging risks following the pandemic; how the pandemic is affecting workers’ compensation; the steps that the CID is taking to increase diversity and promote inclusion in the industry; and cyber security laws. PIACT thanks the CID and those who attended for this informative Q&A session.

N.H.: Granite State’s ‘crossover’ looms

In the New Hampshire Legislature, the crossover—the deadline for the state House and state Senate to act on bills that originated in them, respectively—is Friday, April 9, 2021. PIANH is tracking several bills, including S.B.36, which would remove the requirement for auto coverage applicants to sign statements of residency; S.B.63, which would limit businesses’ liability for COVID-19 exposure claims; H.B.518, which would allow producers to rebate their commission to their employees; and H.B.450, which would change minimum auto policy limits. More …

N.J.: PIANJ discusses step-down provisions with Sen. Cryan

PIANJ met with Sen. Joseph P. Cryan, D-20, vice chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, last week to discuss the issue of banning step-down provisions in personal auto policies—one of PIANJ’s top legislative priorities. A step-down provision in an auto policy acts to reduce the amount of insurance coverage available to a policyholder from what he or she originally had agreed to and thinks is available on the insurance policy. These provisions can be triggered by an insured using a personal vehicle for a commercial purpose, even if the commercial use is limited. Step-down provisions also are common for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage coverages. They can limit the amount of UM/UIM coverage to some permissive users. These types of provisions erode consumer confidence in the insurance industry. PIANJ will continue to work with the senator as well as elected officials throughout the state on this issue.

N.J.: Help New Jersey PIAPAC reach its quarterly goal

In this important election year, your state political action committee has set a fundraising goal of $30,000, and our first-quarter deadline is coming up fast. We need to raise a total of $7,500 before the end of March to stay on track with our yearly goal, and when all 120 state legislators are up for re-election in November, it is vital that we have the money to donate to those candidates who support our industry and the professional insurance agent. Please make your donation online or mail in a donation form.

ICYMI

ICYMI: Biden signs COVID relief bill into law

President Joseph R. Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that will give many Americans another stimulus payment, extend federal unemployment benefits, and provide large amounts of funds to state and local governments into law last week. The legislation includes further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and changes intended to expand eligibility for borrowers.

Register now

Register for PIA Virtual Advocacy Day by March 26

PIA National’s PIA Virtual Advocacy Day, which usually takes place in person, in Washington, D.C., will take place May 11-13, 2021, via video or telephone conferencing. PIA Virtual Advocacy Day is independent agents’ opportunity to advocate for the independent insurance industry to members of the U.S. Congress. While PIA National advocates on behalf of independent agents all year round, PIA Virtual Advocacy Day is an opportunity for agents themselves to speak with congressional staff about the challenges they face in the industry. Interested in participating? Register today to join PIA Northeast and your U.S. congressional representatives for PIA Virtual Advocacy Day. Registration closes Friday, March 26, 2021.

Conn.: Register for the CTYIP Insurance Game Night

Do you know everything there is to know about insurance? Want a chance to win a free one-hour PIA webinar? CTYIP is hosting Insurance Game Night on Thursday, April 8, 2021, at 6:15 p.m. via Zoom. The event is free for all attendees. The individual with the highest score will win a free one-hour PIA webinar of his or her choice. Register today! Email CTYIP Coordinator Ashleigh Adams if you have questions.

N.J.: This week: Join PIANJ for an E&O Q&A for agents

PIANJ will host a Deep Dive Forum on the current state of the errors-and-omissions market—specifically for independent agents—this Thursday, via video conferencing. The expert-led discussion will cover E&O issues that independent agents face, and it will allow attendees the opportunity to ask the questions they may have on the topic. There is no cost to attend this event; to reserve your spot, sign up now.

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