Capitol Alert

Insurance companies couldn’t drop customers after a wildfire under proposed bill

Tubbs. Nuns. Thomas. Atlas.

California saw some of its largest and most destructive wildfires ever in 2017 – an increasingly common occurrence that many experts attribute to climate change.

That new reality has brought new challenges for the owners of an estimated 3.6 million homes in areas with dense wildland vegetation. A million of the homes are considered to be at high or very high risk of fire.

Over the past six years, complaints of issues with renewing homeowners’ insurance or spiking premiums have more than tripled in zip codes at the greatest risk of wildfire, according to the California Department of Insurance. They now account for more than 60 percent of all such complaints – 314 last year – though fewer than 40 percent of Californians live in those zip codes.

The Department of Insurance also reports than between 2015 and 2016, the number of policies not renewed by insurance companies increased by 15 percent, to more than 10,000, in two dozen counties with the most homes at high risk of fire.

A new proposal from Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat running for insurance commissioner next year, could change that trend.

It would prohibit insurance companies from dropping or not renewing homeowners’ policies after a wildfire disaster, and would require them to seek approval from the Department of Insurance before pulling out of areas with a high fire risk. The bill would also require insurance companies to provide mitigation discounts to customers who make wildfire safety improvements to their homes.

Lara plans to unveil the plan, which will be formally introduced when the Legislature returns in January, at a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

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WORTH REPEATING: “America is back. We are tackling big issues again. I’m proud we got this done.” – Rep. Kevin McCarthy on the GOP tax overhaul

DREAM ON: When Congress shifted its focus to a tax overhaul in the final months of 2017, prospects faded for a deal to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Now advocates are trying to renew pressure on lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act, legislation that would create a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

They’re responding to President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind an executive order that let young immigrants stay in the country and work. As protests ramp up across the country, including a hunger strike at a Washington D.C. jail, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León will join immigration, labor and social justice organizations, 11 a.m. at the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles, to urge Congress to support a “clean” bill, without provisions for increased immigration enforcement or border security.

FA LA LA LA LA: Before the Capitol holiday music program wraps up this weekend, two more state agencies are getting in the spirit. The CalSTRS Christmas choir performs a free concert in the rotunda at 11 a.m., followed by the Caltrans choir at noon.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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