Vehicle insurance bills advance in Mississippi Legislature

| Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mississippi House lawmakers have OK’d a bill intended to boost enforcement of motor vehicle insurance laws by giving cities a cut of fines collected for violations.

The measure would allocate 25 percent of fines collected from uninsured drivers to cities and counties.

Drivers have been required to have liability insurance since 2000 but some cities are not strictly enforcing the law because they do not receive compensation, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

The violation is one of the only traffic fines that local agencies do not receive a portion of.

“We had asked them to do it without getting any part of it,” said Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus. “They are not enthusiastic about doing the insurance violations.”

About $5 million in fines are collected each year from those who drive without insurance, he told the newspaper. An estimated 38 percent of Mississippi drivers do not have liability policies.

The Mississippi Municipal League, county supervisors and police chiefs associations supported the bill.

The measure, which passed with a 76-41 vote on Feb. 7, also requires insurance companies to supply customer lists to the Department of Public Safety.

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, amended the bill to assess a $500 fine to companies that do not hand over a customer’s information within 30 days.

Fines for the first-time offenders would drop from $1,000 to $500. Subsequent violations would be $1,000.

HB1238 has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Mississippi drivers who have vehicle insurance are the subjects of another legislative effort.

The House and Senate passed bills Feb. 3 that would raise the minimum coverage requirement.

Current law requires drivers to have $10,000 for bodily injury, $20,000 for personal injury and $5,000 for property damage.

“It’s woefully inadequate what we have now,” Chism told The Associated Press.

Both versions propose $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for personal injury. The House bill – HB722 – suggests $25,000 for property damage, compared to $20,000 in the Senate bill – SB2328.

The House bill has been forwarded to the Senate while the Senate version has gone to the House.

SB2328 was amended to apply only to policies issued after the bill takes effect.

Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, said any increases to premiums wouldn’t exceed 15 percent for the additional coverage.

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