PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 6, 2013

Golden Triangle delegates spur windstorm changes in Austin

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

— Golden Triangle delegates began and ended their three-day lobbying effort in Austin this week by talking about windstorm insurance and what could be done to ease the financial burden on the Gulf Coast.

While Sunday — the delegates’ first day in Austin — was spent golfing and meeting with state legislators, Monday began with a windstorm insurance discussion with Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland.

The 14 counties in Texas that cover the cost of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association each had representatives attend the windstorm rally on the north steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning, closing out the Golden Triangle Days in Austin.

The purpose of the rally was to draw attention to the windstorm insurance issue, and enough people attended to completely cover the Capitol steps, said Conrad Cooper, chairman of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce.

And it may have had an effect, for legislators filed four bills Tuesday that would overhaul TWIA, The Texas Tribune reported. Hunter filed three bills that would make over the system while state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, sponsored a companion bill in the upper chamber.

Along the Gulf Coast, Texans have endured a nearly 50 percent increase in TWIA rates over the past 10 years, The Tribune reported. And, in turn, TWIA has spent $2.1 billion on losses and litigation resulting from 2008’s Hurricane Ike.

TWIA is a public-private agency comprised of Texas property and casualty insurance companies, according to The Texas Tribune. The nonprofit, semi-state agency provides basic wind and hail insurance coverage for property owners, and its policyholders have tripled to several hundred-thousands since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast.

The Golden Triangle delegates discussed more than just windstorm insurance while they were in Austin this week. The delegates met with legislators to talk about education, transportation and the environment, as well.

“We got a lot done in a day or two’s time,” Cooper said.

State Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, read a resolution on the House floor, recognizing the Golden Triangle delegates, and the same was done in the Senate.

“It seemed like the representatives up there were impressed that a group of over 300 people from the Golden Triangle would go there to talk about the issues that affect our area,” Cooper said.

And the issues that affect the area are important, he said, because the Golden Triangle produces quite a bit of energy. But it has a smaller population than metropolitan areas such as Dallas or Houston. Golden Triangle Days was there to remind state legislators of the area’s vitality.

“I think they know that, but it doesn’t hurt to tell them that, too,” Cooper said.

The Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce got together to plan the biennial event in Austin, as they have for the past decade. The Port Arthur chamber took responsibility for the bulk of the event this year, and local municipalities and companies donated more than $100,000 to make it possible.

email: bcrum@panews.com

twitter: @broocrum