Candidate Spotlight: Tim Temple

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance candidate Tim Temple sits in front the Starry Night mural at Starlight Espresso Cafe in Gonzales, La.

Louisiana is paying the highest auto insurance premiums in the U.S., second only to Michigan. Since the data has only been tracked since 2006, Louisiana has become nearly the worst in the country over the last ten years for auto premiums, Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance candidate Tim Temple said.

"Over that period we have slowly been edging up the list, seventh to fifth to third to second," Temple said. "Unless we do something different, we're going to be first. Being that high is killing families and it's killing businesses."

Temple blames current Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon for the state's insurance problems.

"I think Jim Donelon is doing a poor job of being commissioner of insurance, and that's why I'm running," Temple said. "He's absent on important issues like flood legislation. He's absent to addressing the problems that we're having as a state.

"He's been told for years primarily by the [insurance] agents that we've got an auto crisis. That families can't afford their premiums. Their premiums are more expensive than their car note. Their homeowners is more expensive than their mortgage. He's been told for years that we are in a crisis mode. He has yet to acknowledge that."

In fact, Donelon has been in the media several times in 2018-19 to address the auto crisis, which has been blamed on everything from smartphones to the state's $50,000 jury threshold.

The latter of which the Louisiana Legislature is currently reviewing. HB 372 by Rep. Kirk Talbot would decrease the jury threshold to $5,000, meaning that anything over $5,000 would be decided by a jury, rather than a judge. The idea is that a jury would be tougher on awarding claims to accident victims who are presumably "milking" the system.

Moreover, the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance has the power to regulate auto insurance premiums and approve or deny rate increases requested by insurance companies. Donelon's stance is that while he does not want to approve increases, that companies could refuse to do business in Louisiana.

Yet, the average Louisianan pays $1,500 dollars in auto insurance premiums. Idaho, the state with the lowest average premium, pays $700. And the market pool in Louisiana is still decreasing. At least five companies have left Louisiana in the past two years.

"If you look at over the years, we have fewer and fewer companies writing automobile insurance. The best form of consumer protection is competition. That's what truly drives rate. Our pool is shrinking."

While infrastructure is another issue that is not directly a part of the insurance commissioner's job, Temple believes the commissioner can be more of a voice when needed on that issue.

"What the commissioner can do and what the current commissioner is not doing is lending his voice when they're having discussions about infrastructure and why we need better roads or more bridges," Temple said.

Next, Temple said that while the local area obviously deals with flood insurance problems, that it is a statewide issue.

"Louisiana is a low-lying state," he said. "It floods in Shreveport. It floods in Monroe. It floods in Lake Charles, and it floods in Alexandria, so it is a statewide issue."

Temple said he totally disagrees with treating flood insurance like a federal issue.

"While we have the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program), a federally-funded program, as commissioner you can lend your voice to those conversations to work with our congressional delegations. Those are the ladies and gentlemen up there that fight for the funding for the program every year, every time it comes up for funding. The current commissioner takes a hands-off approach.

"It's gone as far as GNO, Inc. out of New Orleans. They had to get engaged and lead the charge on trying to work with the congressional delegation members on trying to get some reform and make some improvements on the program to help congressional members understand how important flood is in Louisiana."

The commissioner was absent in a meeting in January in Washington D.C., Temple said. "Jim Donelon was supposed to be there, and he was a no show."

Currently there are no private companies writing flood in Louisiana, Temple said.

"I believe a strong private flood market is competition," he said. "I would rather see private flood than federal flood, because that's you and I as taxpayers at the end of the day. I would want to talk and see what I could do to encourage private companies to write in Louisiana."

Next, Temple said he would approach health insurance the same way he would flood insurance, since those policies are also federally mandated. "You can lend your voice," he said.

The election for insurance commissioner is October 12, 2019. Temple's official announcement as candidate was on January 22. He has never held political office. And he supported Donelon in 2011 when he allegedly announced that would be his last term.

"Jim Donelon received his first taxpayer paycheck 51 years ago," he said. "[Donelon] has been commissioner of insurance since 2006. He started as Jefferson Parish Attorney in 1968. He served 19 years in the legislature as a representative, a career politician."

Temple, a DeRidder High School graduate and SMU degree holder said the state needs to be proactive before the current situation gets any worse.

"This race is about pocketbook, not party," Temple, a republican candidate said. "This is about what can you do to drive competition, bring companies into this state, to truly help give consumers better choices and lower prices.

"My career has been insurance," he said. "I started as an independent agent in '94-'95. For 24 years I was in the industry. The current commissioner is not from the insurance industry, and he doesn't understand insurance."