A bill approved unanimously by a legislative panel on Wednesday would make the director of state insurance agency an elected position.
The proposal would put South Carolina in line with 11 states that elect insurance chiefs, according to staff for the Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
Myrtle Beach Sen. Luke Rankin, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill is needed to prevent insurance directors from feeling beholden to the governors who appoint them – and to protect the directors from decisions that governors may not like.
“We’ve seen this before, with too much authority, too much power concentrated in too few hands,” Rankin said.
The bill would change the title from “director” to “commissioner” and remove a prohibition on that person seeking elected office. Under the legislation, the first election for the post would happen in 2014.
The move to take the position from an appointed to an elected one comes in the wake of the resignations of two of the last three people to hold the post. Gov. Mark Sanford’s pick as insurance director, Eleanor Kitzman, resigned in 2007 over a disagreement with the governor. Sanford said he would not go along with Kitzman’s plans to expand a hurricane coverage program that covered a strip of land on the coast to property further inland.
Sanford picked Scott Richardson, a former GOP state senator picked by Sanford to succeed Kitzman.
South Carolina has gone without an insurance director since December, when former Liberty Life Insurance CEO David Black abruptly submitted his resignation. Black had been in office for less than a year after being appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley.
“It needs to be a position that the folks can have a sense of confidence in,” Rankin said, of the top position.
The bill now moves forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee.