Members of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators should look at state open meeting laws to make sure that state representatives do not attend closed meetings, says Rhode Island state Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, R.I.
Kennedy was responding to a June 15 opinion from North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. In the opinion, Stenehjem holds that there is no violation of North Dakota open meeting laws if North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman and members of his staff attend closed meetings organized by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.
Stenehjem has presented state North Dakota Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, N.D., with “the framework to close any loopholes,” Kennedy says.
Keiser had teamed with state Rep. Frank Wald, R-Dickinson, N.D., to file a request for review.
Kennedy, who is also vice president of NCOIL, Troy, N.Y., has been vocal in his opposition to closed NAIC meetings that leave out input from legislators and others in policy discussions.
In certain cases, however, including discussions of specific individuals or companies, pending litigation or trade secrets, closed meetings are warranted, Kennedy says.
Kennedy recently sent a letter asking legislators in all states to keep their insurance regulators from attending NAIC meetings that are closed without good cause.
Kennedy says he has asked one key Rhode Island lawmaker why Rhode Island is giving state data to the NAIC for free even though the NAIC is not complying with Rhode Island laws.
Rhode Island has a budget deficit of $300 million, and it would be reasonable for cash-strapped states to ask for a share of the revenue generated by the data they supply, Kennedy says.
The data sellers “are making money off of the information,” Kennedy says.