Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon won’t seek another term

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 6:04 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon announced Tuesday (March 14) that he will not seek re-election after 17 years in office.

The declaration came at the end of a press conference Donelon called to discuss incentives for insurance companies.

“I will not seek re-election this fall and I made that decision for two reasons,” he said. “The first is to remove politics from the vitally important upcoming legislative session. (And) I am obviously 78 years old and have spent almost 50 years serving the public of Louisiana.”

Asked if the strain of the state’s current insurance crisis factored into his decision, Donelon said, “I really don’t think so. Who can tell, you know? But one thing that did play a factor in it is a statewide campaign takes a lot of time I don’t have. I haven’t had any time, since late last year, to put toward my re-election effort.

“I can’t say that it had no factor in my decision. But, frankly, I’m also the longest-serving insurance commissioner in the state’s history -- 17 years.”

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Donelon was appointed interim insurance commissioner in 2006, then elected to the position later that year. He also served in the Louisiana House of Representatives and on the Jefferson Parish Council.

Donelon said nine insurance companies have applied for financial incentives to write wind and hail policies in the state. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida, eight insurance companies failed financially and others stopped writing new policies in Louisiana.

“For each dollar an insurance company receives through that program, they must match the grant dollar-for-dollar and then $4 in new premium,” Donelon said.

Applicants for the financial incentives have asked for $62 million, which exceeds the $45 million appropriated by the legislature in a special session to create the incentive fund.

“The insurers, those nine collectively, asked for a total of $62 million in grant money, which is $17 million more than is available.”

Donelon’s chief of staff Denise Gardner said, “If all nine meet the qualifications for the program, we would like to see all nine participate. Therefore, we would pro-rata the amounts that they would get, so they wouldn’t receive the amount that they requested.”

Donelon said a bill will be filed for the upcoming legislative session seeking additional incentive grant funding.

“The insurers who participate will write policies in the areas most affected by the policy cancellations, including taking policies off Citizens’ book of business,” Donelon said, referencing Louisiana Citizens, the state’s insurer of last resort.

Donelon’s staff said the incentives should allow around 40,000 policyholders to get coverage from the insurers participating in the grant program. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee must approve the companies applying for the grants.

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