NU Online News Service, Feb. 25, 2004, 4:23 p.m. EST, Washington – A House Financial Services subcommittee may be moving more aggressively on insurance regulatory reform that previously thought.[@@]

The subcommittee could have an incremental reform bill drafted by the end of March.

Several sources have told National Underwriter that the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, which is chaired by Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., is beginning to draft a detailed set of reform principles that could become the basis of legislation.

These principles will reflect Baker’s preference for incremental reform as opposed to optional federal chartering, but they will call for a significant amount of uniformity and regulatory relief for the insurance industry, the sources say.

The expectation is that the principles will be circulated to industry groups, state insurance commissioners and other interested parties before a hearing expected to take place during the week of March 29.

The sources say that, if the reaction is favorable, the subcommittee could have a markup by Memorial Day.

A markup is a formal session at which a quorum must be present and where members vote on whether to approve legislation.

This would place insurance regulatory reform on a much faster track than many industry lobbyists have expected.

At the end of 2003, the general belief was that Baker’s subcommittee would continue to hold hearings on insurance regulate on and probably release a discussion draft of a reform bill towards the end of the session. There was little speculation that the subcommittee would have a markup this year.

But one lobbyist, who asked not to be identified, notes that the subcommittee already has conducted many hearings and meetings on insurance regulation. He says the subcommittee has a voluminous record.

It is hard, he says, to see what would be the point of having further hearings, unless the subcommittee is ready to advance a bill.

The principles being developed by the subcommittee are likely either to require the states to adopt certain uniform practices in areas such as speed-to-market and market conduct, or to create incentives for states to establish uniformity.