Maryland state Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore, called here for state lawmakers and insurance regulators to work together to protect state authority over insurance regulation.

“We are all under attack by the feds,” Kelley said at the fall meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.

If there are disagreements between regulators and legislators, then “let’s have a fight in-house and quietly, and not in a public way that would harm us during a time of stress,” Kelley said.

Kelley spoke at the first in what the NAIC says will be a series of regulator-legislator sessions at the quarterly sessions.

The NAIC has established the sessions, and a new legislative liaison group, to promote dialogue between regulators and state lawmakers and to respond to complaints by some state lawmakers that the NAIC has been shutting state lawmakers out of some activities.

The session attendees who packed the room included about 20 insurance commissioners as well as representatives from the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y., and the National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver.

State Rep. Robert Damron, R-Jessamine, Ky., one of the state lawmakers who has talked in the past about difficulties with attending some NAIC sessions, echoed Kelley’s words.

“The real enemy is across on the Hill,” Damron said. “They love for us to fight and bicker and battle each other. Federal regulation of insurance is our opponent, not each other.”

NAIC President Walter Bell, the Alabama insurance commissioner, said he does not believe that federal legislators are the NAIC’s enemy.

“We work with Congress,” Bell said. “We’d rather testify before friends than before enemies.”

Session speakers talked about the progress of the new Interstate Insurance Product Registration Commission and NAIC support of state insurance regulation and outreach efforts.

Kelley said state lawmakers recognize the importance of the NAIC. She asked the NAIC to let legislators help put together the new legislator liaison group’s agenda, to participate in NAIC educational sessions, and possibly to serve in an ex officio capacity on some committees.

Bell said he would work to ensure that legislators have access to NAIC educational programs.

Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, R.I., expressed concern about not having input on the session’s agenda, and he also expressed concern about the creation of a new “regulator to regulator” meeting status.

The regulator-to-regulator meeting status is no different than the old “executive session” meeting status, Kennedy said.

“You can put paint on it, but it is still the same thing as it was before–a closed meeting,” Kennedy said.

The first liaison meeting was a good first step, but the NAIC needs to take more steps to accomplish the goal of opening up meetings and achieving regulatory transparency, Kennedy said.

Tom Sullivan, Connecticut commissioner, said, “We need to get our hands around what constitutes an open meeting.”