Should a lobbyist run the insurance department?Lawmakers to debate nomination for new insurance chief
State senators today will weigh in on Gov. Nikki Haley’s nomination of Ray Farmer to run the state Department of Insurance, a confirmation hearing that at least one senator said will include hard questions about home insurance rates.
“It won’t be a rubber-stamp hearing,” said Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, a member of the Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee.
Davis said he plans to ask Farmer why home insurance rates are so high, especially in coastal areas. “I’m not sure which direction the hearing will go,” Davis said. “It depends on Mr. Farmer’s answers.”
Haley nominated Farmer in November after the department had gone without a director for nearly a year. Farmer is a former lobbyist for the American Insurance Association in Atlanta.
Haley’s selection triggered criticism from the South Carolina Competitive Alliance, a group of business people in Beaufort and Hilton Head.
Led by Andy Twisdale, a Hilton Head real estate agent, and Daryl Ferguson, a retired executive, the group said insurers are charging too much for insurance, and that state regulators have done little to represent consumers.
Farmer was a lobbyist for 30 years, but in an interview in December, he said he also worked as a regulator in Georgia. He said this experience gives him a unique perspective when it comes to balancing the needs of industry and consumers.
Haley’s spokesman, Rob Godfrey, said Tuesday, “The governor refused to settle for just anyone but the very best to serve as insurance director, and she is looking forward to his swift confirmation.”
The hearing will begin at 11 a.m. in Columbia.