PAUL EGAN, KATHLEEN GRAY | DETROIT FREE PRESS
Detroit Free Press: LANSING — The auto insurance bill rushed through the state House early Thursday still isn’t good enough to prevent a veto from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a spokeswoman said.
“The governor has made it very clear that she is only interested in signing a reform bill that is reasonable, fair and provides strong consumer protections and immediate financial relief,” said Tiffany Brown, Whitmer’s press secretary.
“In their current form, neither bill passed by the Legislature meets that standard.”
Whitmer is expected to make further comments about the auto insurance debate during a bill signing ceremony at the Capitol Thursday morning.
Early Thursday morning, the state House approved massive changes to Michigan’s auto insurance law that were introduced only late Wednesday. House Bill 4397would replace Michigan’s unlimited medical coverage for catastrophic injuries with a range of personal injury protection coverage options and mandate five years of reduced rates for that portion of a motorist’s auto insurance bill. Three Democrats — two from Detroit — joined all Republicans to pass the measure 61-49.
The House action followed similar action in the GOP-controlled Senate on Tuesday, where major auto insurance changes were introduced, rushed through committee, and approved in a 24-14 vote, with two Detroit Democrats voting yes with the Republicans. Senate Bill 1 would not mandate specific reductions in portions of the auto insurance premium, as the House bill would, but it too would give a range of coverage options and would phase out the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association. That piece of the package alone was expected to reduce the current catastrophic claims surcharge of $192 per vehicle to about $40.
Whitmer said Tuesday she would veto the Senate measure because it didn’t guarantee reduced auto insurance premiums.
Both the House and Senate versions include limits on the use of non-driving factors such as zip code in setting auto insurance premiums, though many Democrats and other critics say those safeguards do not go far enough.
The House and Senate versions now must be reconciled, and it’s during those discussions that Whitmer might be able to use her veto power to push for further changes.
Brown said that Whitmer has “been very clear that passing a budget that fixes the damn roads is her first priority.”
Another important player in the process is Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who has supported similar legislation and lent election muscle to Detroit-area lawmakers who pledged to support legislation to reduce the city’s crippling auto insurance costs. While studies show Michigan’s auto insurance premiums are on average the highest in the nation, nowhere are the average premiums higher than in the city of Detroit. Democratic state Reps. Leslie Love and Karen Whitsett of Detroit, plus Rep. Sara Cambensy of Marquette, voted with the Republicans on the auto insurance changes early Thursday. In the earlier Senate vote, Detroit Democrats Sen. Adam Hollier and Sen. Sylvia Santana broke party ranks to support the measure.
Contact Paul Egan at 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.
– Detroit Free Press