A bill that would prevent auto insurance companies from setting their rates in part using factors that negatively impact black and brown communities… and US Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman… a bill that passed by the State Senate in January… remains pending before the Assembly’s Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee and was not discussed on Monday.
So much for all those tough conversations about race.
The rhetoric surrounding the bill, however, was loud.
A coalition of business leaders, racial justice groups and consumer advocates called on both the Assembly and President Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) for their failure to advance S111 / A1657, which would help put end to racial discrimination in setting auto insurance rates. And they did so unequivocally.
John Harmon, CEO of the New Jersey African American Chamber of Commerce, did not hold back.
“It is mind-boggling to me that an elected official in our state, let alone the president of the assembly, seeks to perpetuate a practice that increases auto insurance premiums for drivers in New Jersey, and which has nothing to do with an individual’s driving record, “he said.
Carlos Medina, CEO of New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – a group that represents 120,000 Hispanic small business owners – was there with him.
“We believe that harmful insurance policies directly affect the growth of our business community,” he said. “Our small businesses contribute more than $ 20 billion to the state’s economy, and setting policies with impartial criteria and fair rates will benefit our economy and the minority community as a whole.” We need our legislators in the House to defend and move this bill forward. “
The coalition also includes the Latino Action Network, Fair Share Housing Center, Consumer Reports, New Jersey Citizen Action, SEIU 32BJ, Faith in New Jersey, New Jersey Anti-Poverty Network, Consumer Federation of America, Root Insurance, CURE Auto Insurance, New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice.
Coughlin declined to comment on the situation.
The efforts for the bill
S111 / A1657 was defended in the Senate by the Senses. Nia Gill (D-Montclair), Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), Nilza Cruz-Perez (D-Camden) and Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) and would prevent insurers from using credit scores, employment and l education in setting auto insurance rates.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (DN.J.) and U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12e Dist.) Introduced similar legislation at the federal level in the fall of 2020, the Automobile Insurance Discrimination Prohibition Act (PAID) – HR 3693.
The bill is not dead. The Assembly has scheduled two more voting sessions during the lame duck period (December 20 and January 10) and retains the possibility of adding more.
Supporters of the bill are not taking a wait-and-see approach. They are proactive.
They want answers to a simple question: Why does a person’s education, their credit rating, and the job they hold – factors that have been shown to have a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities and don’t having no direct impact on the ability to drive – should be used?
Coalition members point out the obvious: these factors do not reflect the driving history of consumers, but serve as indicators of income and race.
They cite research compiled by the Consumer Federation of America, which in 2020 found that New Jersey drivers living in predominantly black and Latin American communities had to pay higher premiums on average than drivers living in predominantly white communities in New Jersey:
- People predominantly living with black zip codes pay 49.5% higher premiums;
- People predominantly living in Latino zip codes pay 49.9% higher premiums.
Research shows this to be true even for drivers in majority-minority neighborhoods with impeccable driving records. Worse yet, they say the practice of using education, credit scores and employment to set prices offers discounts for white drivers with dangerous driving records while unfairly raising prices for black and brown drivers. low-income with good or even perfect driving records.
Cuqui Rivera, Executive Secretary of the Latino action network, Coughlin called directly.
“This is a racial and social justice priority that needs to be addressed now, not next year or the year after,” he said.. “Auto insurance is a big expense and essential for any family looking to build wealth and economic security. Mr. Speaker Coughlin, it is time for the Assembly to put an end to auto insurance policies that have devastating consequences for Latin American and black communities and our most vulnerable residents.
Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action, called the Assembly as a whole.
“We elected our Assembly to ensure that all New Jerseyans have the same opportunities to prosper,” she said. “Delaying this vote perpetuates a long-standing ordeal for our communities of color and our working families. We urge the Assembly to put their interests ahead of those of insurance companies and to act now.
A simpler question: just allow a vote on the bill.