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SB-292 Wildfire risk reporting.(2019-2020)

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Date Published: 08/25/2020 09:00 PM
SB292:v96#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  August 25, 2020
Amended  IN  Assembly  May 04, 2020
Amended  IN  Assembly  June 17, 2019

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2019–2020 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill
No. 292


Introduced by Senator Rubio
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Daly)
(Coauthor: Senator Jones)
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Cooley, Mayes, and Medina)

February 14, 2019


An act to add Sections 10109.05, 10109.07, 10109.2, 10109.4, and 10109.8 to, and to add Article 2 (commencing with Section 10109.10) to Chapter 12 of Part 1 of Division 2 of, and repeal Section 12966 of the Insurance Code, relating to insurance.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 292, as amended, Rubio. Wildfire risk modeling and mitigation. reporting.
Existing law creates the Department of Insurance, headed by the Insurance Commissioner, and prescribes the commissioner’s powers and duties. Existing law requires the commissioner to conduct or commission various studies and prepare various reports relating to the business of insurance.
This bill would require the commissioner, on or before July 1, 2022, to complete a study on wildfire risk and insurance, including market-based approaches.

The Insurance Rate Reduction and Reform Act of 1988, an initiative measure enacted by Proposition 103, as approved by the voters at the November 8, 1988, statewide general election, prohibits specified insurance rates from being approved or remaining in effect that are excessive, inadequate, unfairly discriminatory, or otherwise in violation of the act. The act requires an insurer that wishes to change a rate to file a complete rate application with the Insurance Commissioner and deems the application approved 60 days after public notice of the application unless certain events occur, including that a consumer requests a hearing, or the commissioner determines to hold a hearing. The act requires hearings to be conducted pursuant to specified provisions of law governing administrative hearings.

Under existing law, the California FAIR Plan Association is a joint reinsurance association in which all insurers licensed to write basic property insurance participate in administering a program for the equitable apportionment of basic property insurance for persons who are unable to obtain that coverage through normal channels.

This bill would require the association, on or before January 31 and July 31 of each year, to submit a report to the commissioner that lists certain counties, according to specified population thresholds, in which the number of new residential property insurance policies issued by the FAIR Plan during the prior 6 months equals a certain percentage of the number of single family residences in that county. The bill would require a county listed on the report to be designated by the department as an insurance market protection (IMAP) eligible county under the IMAP program that would be established if AB 2167 of the 2019–20 Regular Session is enacted. The bill would authorize an insurer to submit an IMAP filing to the department for residential property insurance policies issued in an IMAP eligible county and would require the IMAP filing to set forth specified mitigation standards. The bill would require the Office of Planning and Research, on or before, January 1, 2023, to issue a report outlining the effectiveness of the IMAP program.

This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to establish a commission in state government consisting of the Insurance Commissioner, the State Fire Marshall, the Executive Director of the California Building Standards, and the Director of Emergency Services to, among other things, convene stakeholders to develop regionally specific community hardening standards that have the propensity for reducing loss due to wildfires. The bill would create the Catastrophic Modeling Advisory Committee to be chaired jointly by the Insurance Commissioner and the Director of Emergency Services, or their designees. The bill would prescribe the membership of the advisory committee and would require the advisory committee to, among other things, deliver to the Office of Emergency Services, on or before July 1, 2024, a comprehensive report detailing a plan for the Office of Emergency Services to, upon appropriation by the Legislature, establish and operate a public catastrophic loss model.

The bill would provide that its provisions are not severable.

The bill would make its operation contingent on the enactment of AB 2167 of the 2019–20 Regular Session.

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 12966 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:

12966.
 (a) The commissioner shall study wildfire risk and insurance, including market-based approaches. The study shall be completed on or before July 1, 2022.
(b) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed.

SECTION 1.

(a)The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1)Climate change has created a new reality in California. Fifteen of the 20 most destructive wildfires in the state’s history have occurred since 2000 and 10 of the most destructive fires have occurred since 2015. More people died from wildfires in 2017 and 2018 than in the last 10 years combined.

(A)Igniting November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire burned for 17 days, killed at least 85 people, and destroyed over 18,800 structures. It is not only the most expensive wildfire in United States history, but was the most expensive natural disaster worldwide in 2018. Insured losses reached $12.5 billion, while total losses were $16.5 billion.

(B)Also igniting November 8, 2018, the Woolsey Fire burned for 14 days, killed three people, and destroyed over 1,600 buildings. Insured losses are estimated at $3 billion to $5 billion of the $6 billion in total property losses.

(C)Igniting July 23, 2018, the Carr Fire burned for 37 days, killed eight people, including three firefighters, and destroyed over 1,600 structures. The fire caused over $1.5 billion in property damage.

(D)Igniting December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire burned for 39 days, killed 23 people, including one firefighter and 21 people from a resulting mudslide, and destroyed over 1,000 structures. The fire caused over $2.2 billion in damages.

(E)Igniting October 8, 2017, the Tubbs Fire burned for 12 days, killed 22 people, and destroyed over 5,600 structures. Insured losses are estimated to be between $7.5 billion and $9.5 billion.

(F)Igniting October 8, 2017, the Atlas Fire burned for 12 days, destroyed 25,000 acres, and destroyed over 700 buildings. Insured losses are estimated to be between $2.5 billion and $4.5 billion.

(G)Burning for over three months in 2018, a less costly seventh fire, the Mendocino Complex Fire, became the largest recorded fire in state history when it consumed over 459,000 acres, more than the previous largest fire, the Thomas Fire, in 2017.

(2)Fire season in California has changed. In the western United States, the length of the fire season is over 80 days longer than it was in the 1970s. According to research from the University of California, Los Angeles, residents may no longer expect fire season to end in September. Instead, the onset of seasonal rain can be delayed into October or even November. These longer periods without rain, combined with the well-known, heavy wind patterns of autumn, have created increased likelihood of uncontrollable, severe fires that endanger life and property. The Camp Fire in Paradise is an example of a fire that started after the end of the traditional fire season.

(3)The impact of catastrophic fires is multifaceted. While the governmental costs of fire response and suppression are significant, research from Headwaters Economics indicates those costs are less than 10 percent of the total costs. Combined with suppression expenses, other short-term costs, including evacuation and aid relief, road stabilization, and home and property loss only represent 35 percent of the total wildfire-related costs. Longer term costs, including loss of property value, tax revenue, and business revenue, as well as landscape rehabilitation, infrastructure repair, loss of ecosystem services, and human casualties represent the remaining 65 percent.

(4)According to a Department of Insurance 2018 report on the availability and affordability of wildfire coverage, major insurers are pulling back from writing new policies or renewing policies in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire areas. Additionally, premiums are increasing in the WUI, and most insurers do not take into consideration wildfire mitigation conducted by the homeowner or the community. This is in part because no single insurer has loss experience in the WUI to validate the rates and premiums charged for each wild fire risk model score. The department’s report further states that a credible database for wildfire loss experience in the WUI is needed in order for insurers to use rating plans that impact rates in the WUI and suggests that the Legislature should create a framework within which insurers offer a mitigation premium credit for property owners that conduct proper mitigation.

(5)The National Institute of Building Sciences studied 23 years of federally funded mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Economic Development Administration, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and found that hazard mitigation funding saves $6 in future disaster costs for every $1 invested. Further, the study found that designing buildings to meet the 2018 International Residential Code and 2018 International Building Code would provide a national benefit of $11 for every $1 of investment when compared to 1990-era building codes and National Flood Insurance Program requirements.

(6)Studying, developing, and incentivizing homeowners to actively participate in, actuarially sound wildfire mitigation measures is therefore a fiscally prudent policy with the potential to save lives and prevent billions of dollars in future losses from occurring. A regularly updated and secure central database of publicly held housing infrastructure information, deployed in support of a public catastrophic loss model, has the potential to significantly enhance statewide disaster planning and response efforts, as well as quantify the benefit of homeowners’ mitigation efforts. In order to accomplish this goal, it is important for the state to partner with insurers, insurance research organizations, and local agencies to develop easily and uniformly enforced defensible space practices and measurable mitigation efforts for future study.

(7)Research shows that homeowners’ risk reduction behaviors are influenced by the perceived effectiveness of the activities and their perceived ability to complete them. Public outreach, information sharing, and a communitywide collaborative process on wildfire protection planning have been found to build trust among residents and local fire agencies. It is the intent of the Legislature to partner with local agencies throughout California’s diverse wildfire risk regions in support of collecting regionally specific housing infrastructure information in support of developing regionally specific loss modeling.

(8)Residential property insurance provides essential financial security for California residents for both short-term and long-term costs. Insurance supports temporary needs for housing and transportation for fire victims, intermediate needs for debris and hazardous materials removal from fire-affected properties, and long-term rebuilding of structures and replacement of personal property. There is no governmental program that provides similar comprehensive assistance for California residents and it is, therefore, vital for the State of California to ensure the existence of a vibrant residential property insurance marketplace capable of serving all communities.

(9)Strains in the residential property insurance system are becoming evident. As the Senate Committee on Insurance noted in its 2019 informational hearing on homeowners’ insurance availability and affordability, California policyholders have “enjoyed a long spell of low insurance rates” but “climate change, drought, population movement, and other factors may be changing the fundamental nature of the homeowners’ insurance market.” Analysis of countrywide data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners indicates that average homeowners’ insurance rates in California rank 32nd in the country and, when adjusted for differences in regional costs, rank 49th in the country, at less than one-half the cost for insurance in states exposed to other natural disasters, including hurricanes.

(10)As part of a similar 2019 investigation of the homeowners’ insurance market, the Assembly Committee on Insurance noted the acceleration of losses in this environment of relatively low rates, finding that a “study of the homeowners’ insurance market released in 2018 as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment found that insured losses through 2017 wiped out the entire underwriting profit insurers earned since 2000. The 2018 fires continued with another round of enormous losses.” The committee cautioned against a legislative response that “increases the likelihood of any policy change to generate unintended consequences” and guarding against the great risk that regulating some, but not all, of the important aspects of insurance could “significantly disrupt a homeowners’ insurance market that is effectively serving a great majority of California homeowners.”

(11)The final report of the Governor’s Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery attempted to reconcile the various competing interests associated with insurance availability, risk selection, and pricing. The commission noted that “while insurance is still largely available, it will become increasingly unavailable and/or unaffordable for many in the wildland urban interface in California.” In attempting to harmonize the various competing interests for California, the commission recommended preserving risk-based insurance pricing, while avoiding cross-subsidies of high-risk areas by low-risk areas, as well as developing incentives for parcel and community level loss mitigation efforts.

(b)Based upon this extensive investigation in both the legislative and executive branches, the Legislature determines that a state policy response is required to solve several issues simultaneously, including all of the following:

(1)Ensuring insurance rates are adequate to avoid insurer insolvencies and to permit insurers to operate in the state’s highest risk areas, while imposing restrictions on rates above actuarially justified levels.

(2)Reducing the number of residents that are required to rely upon the California FAIR Plan, which the State of California created to provide a market of last resort but which is a catastrophic insurance pool at rate levels far higher than the regular insurance market.

(3)Incentivizing insurers to seek cost-based rates in exchange for assurances that they will serve high-risk communities at levels similar to their statewide presence.

(4)Developing systems of accountability for individual and community-based loss mitigation efforts.

(c)Recent wildfires have contributed to a surge of residential property insurance policies being issued by the FAIR Plan in numbers approaching that seen after the Northridge earthquake. In order to monitor the surges in new FAIR Plan policies and to create a standard threshold to indicate when admitted market residential property insurance availability in specified areas of the state has declined, the Legislature determines that it is necessary to do all of the following:

(1)Create a standard threshold for residential property insurance policies to qualify for the Insurance Market Action Plan (IMAP), established by this act, based on monitoring surges in FAIR Plan new business that indicate a contracting insurance market.

(2)Incentivize insurers to seek cost-based rates in exchange for assurances that they will maintain an adequate presence in specified high-risk areas of the state, and evaluate the effectiveness of these methods at reducing reliance on the FAIR Plan in eligible areas, thereby maintaining an adequate supply of admitted market insurance at a price more affordable to most consumers than that offered by the FAIR Plan.

(3)Establish a scientifically advanced probabilistic wildfire loss model for the purpose of providing property and casualty insurers access to a state of the art public tool that is accessible for comparison, evaluation, and analysis of modeled risk assumptions used in support of IMAP rate filings. In this regard, it is the intent of the Legislature to convene an advisory committee of public and private stakeholders to design standards for the use of probabilistic wildfire loss models in residential property insurance rate development, and to establish a database and computer model for that purpose.

(4)The Legislature finds these measures are necessary to limit the number of insurer-initiated nonrenewals that occur in response to changes in the understanding of wildfire risk and to limit homeowners’ reliance on the California FAIR Plan.

(A)The Legislature finds that such a model is an objective public tool that will promote precision in loss projection, and that decreasing the uncertainty of future losses in this state is necessary to stabilize large price swings in the residential property insurance market.

(B)The Legislature further intends that such a model be available to assist state and local governments incorporate a modeled understanding of the costs of wildfire risk in their planning processes.

SEC. 2.Section 10109.05 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:
10109.05.

(a)The California FAIR Plan Association shall, on a biannual basis, submit a report to the commissioner that lists the counties that meet the following criteria:

(1)The county has a population of 200,000 or fewer residents and the number of new residential property insurance policies issued by the FAIR Plan during the prior six months equals 1 percent or more of the number of single family residences in that county.

(2)The county has a population of 200,001 to 400,000, inclusive, residents and the number of new residential property insurance policies issued by the FAIR Plan during the prior six months equals 0.75 percent or more of the number of single family residences in that county.

(3)The county has a population of 400,001 to 800,000, inclusive, residents and the number of new residential property insurance policies issued by the FAIR Plan during the prior six months equals 0.35 percent or more of the number of single family residences in that county.

(4)The county has a population of more than 800,000 residents and the number of new residential property insurance policies issued by the FAIR Plan during the prior six months equals 0.15 percent or more of the number of single family residences in that county.

(b)For purposes of this section, county population and single family residence counts shall be determined by the most recently available estimates published by the Department of Finance.

(c)(1)The biannual reports submitted by the California FAIR Plan Association pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be delivered to the commissioner on or before January 31 and July 31 of each year and shall be based on the sum of the new FAIR Plan residential property insurance policies issued between July 1 and December 31 of the prior year for the January 31 report and on the sum of the new FAIR Plan residential insurance policies issued between January 1 and June 30, inclusive, of that same year for the July 31 report.

(2)Notwithstanding subdivision (a) and paragraph (1), the initial report due on or before January 31, 2021, shall include the information required by subdivision (a) for the calendar years 2019 and 2020, organized in the same six-month time periods described in paragraph (1), and using the information published by the Department of Finance for those years.

SEC. 3.Section 10109.07 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:
10109.07.

(a)A county that is listed on a report submitted to the commissioner pursuant to Section 10109.05 shall be designated by the department as an IMAP eligible county. The department’s first designation shall include all the counties listed on the initial report required pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (c) of Section 10109.05.

(b)An insurer may submit an IMAP filing to the department for residential property insurance policies issued in an IMAP eligible county.

(c)(1)If a county is originally designated as an IMAP eligible county at the time an insurer submits and receives approval for an IMAP filing in that county, but the county is subsequently not designated as an IMAP eligible county, the insurer may continue to issue new residential property insurance policies under the IMAP rate in that county until the insurer files for a new rate in that county or until two years after the date the county is no longer designated by the department as an IMAP county, whichever occurs first.

(2)Notwithstanding paragraph (1), if a county for which an insurer has submitted an IMAP filing is no longer designated as an IMAP eligible county, the insurer may continue to renew policies with existing insureds in that county at the IMAP rate.

SEC. 4.Section 10109.2 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:
10109.2.

(a)An IMAP filing shall set forth community and parcel-level mitigation standards, along with any necessary procedures for verifying mitigation activities, including any required governmental or third-party certifications.

(b)The commissioner may periodically connect IMAP eligible county representatives with representatives from IMAP participating insurers and third-party fire protection or certification associations to promote collaboration between local governments and industry on local policies for IMAP filings made pursuant to this article.

SEC. 5.Section 10109.4 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:
10109.4.

A rate requested as part of an IMAP filing may be based on a complex catastrophe model, as follows:

(a)The complex catastrophe model shall be based on the best available scientific information for assessing the risk of catastrophic wildfire frequency, severity, and loss.

(b)The projected losses derived from the catastrophe model shall meet all applicable statutory standards.

(c)The complex catastrophe model shall consider both parcel-level mitigation and regional mitigation.

SEC. 6.Section 10109.8 is added to the Insurance Code, to read:
10109.8.

On or before January 1, 2023, the Office of Planning and Research shall issue a report outlining the effectiveness of the IMAP program that includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:

(a)An analysis of whether the IMAP program achieved average admitted market rates lower than the California FAIR Plan plus difference in condition policies.

(b)An analysis of the overall progress of the IMAP program towards achieving market penetration goals in IMAP counties and the impact on FAIR Plan enrollments. This data shall be reported in aggregate.

(c)Recommendations for continued improvements to the IMAP program.

SEC. 7.Article 2 (commencing with Section 10109.10) is added to Chapter 12 of Part 1 of Division 2 of the Insurance Code, to read:
2.Catastrophic Loss Modeling
10109.10

(a)It is the intent of the Legislature to establish in state government a commission that shall consist of the following members, or their designees:

(1)The Insurance Commissioner.

(2)The State Fire Marshall.

(3)The Executive Director of the California Building Standards Commission.

(4)The Director of Emergency Services.

(b)The commission shall annually elect from its membership, a chairperson and a vice chairperson.

10109.11.

It is the intent of the Legislature that the commission established pursuant to Section 10109.10 be created for the following purposes:

(a)To convene stakeholders from fire protection districts, the insurance industry, the building trades industry, planning associations, cities, and counties to develop regionally specific community hardening standards that have the propensity for reducing loss due to wildfires.

(b)To develop fire prevention standards for individual home hardening activities specific to wildfire risks that differentiate between, at a minimum, ember flow resistance and radiant heat resistance.

(c)To establish a central database on housing infrastructure data specific to wildfire risk for use by a public catastrophic loss model.

(d)Develop a standard for the uniform collection and secure storage of housing infrastructure data relevant to insurable risks and necessary to run a sophisticated loss model.

10109.12.

(a)The Catastrophic Modeling Advisory Committee is hereby created, to be chaired jointly by the Insurance Commissioner and the Director of Emergency Services, or their designees. If the commission described in Section 10109.10 is created, the advisory committee shall be under the direction of the commission.

(b)In addition to the Insurance Commissioner and the Director of Emergency Services, the advisory committee shall consist of the following members:

(1)Four members appointed by the Governor, as follows:

(A)An actuary from the insurance industry.

(B)A representative from an insurance research organization with expertise in wildfire risk modeling.

(C)Two full-time faculty members from a California public university with expertise in the following fields:

(i)Statistics.

(ii)Computer system design.

(2)Two full-time faculty members from the University of California, to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules from a list provided by the Regents of the University of California, with expertise in the following fields:

(A)Wildfire modeling.

(B)Regional modeling.

(3)Two full-time faculty members from the University of California, to be appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly from a list provided by the Regents of the University of California, with expertise in the following fields:

(A)Fire weather studies.

(B)Wind modeling.

(c)(1)The initial appointments for the members described in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, of subdivision (b) shall be made on or before July 1, 2021.

(2)The terms for the members appointed pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) shall be for a period of three years.

(3)The terms for the members appointed pursuant to paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (b) shall terminate on the date the report is issued pursuant to Section 10109.14.

10109.13.

The advisory committee shall meet at least quarterly and shall do all of the following:

(a)Gather existing sources of publicly available housing infrastructure data relevant to wildfire loss projection and deposit data in a central database.

(b)Compile for study the existing wildfire modeling efforts and capabilities of the University of California, and other public and private universities and research organizations.

(c)Develop a comprehensive plan for the establishment of a public catastrophic wildfire loss model pursuant to Section 10109.14.

10109.14.

(a)On or before July 1, 2024, the advisory committee shall deliver to the Office of Emergency Services, a comprehensive report detailing a plan for the Office of Emergency Services to, upon appropriation by the Legislature, establish and operate a public catastrophic loss model.

(b)The comprehensive report shall do all of the following:

(1)Adopt the best scientifically available actuarial methods, principles, standards, models, and output ranges that have the potential for improving the accuracy, precision, or reliability of wildfire loss projections used by insurers.

(2)Review available public housing infrastructure data, and identify other data necessary to operate a public wildfire loss model.

(3)Recommend a standard for the uniform collection and secure storage of housing infrastructure data relevant to insurable risks.

(4)Develop standards for model inputs, outputs, operation, and review of wildfire loss models.

(5)Recommend additional public research needed in wildfire loss modeling methodologies to improve loss projection precision or that are necessary to complete a public catastrophic loss model.

(6)Identify the housing infrastructure data needed to create actuarially sound methodologies for incorporating public and privately collected data on defensible space and home hardening methods into a public catastrophic loss model.

(7)Discuss potential interfaces for residential property insurers to access the public model for comparison of assumptions, factors, and detailed loss results, and for other analytical purposes and review sufficient to evaluate the modeling used in support of rate filings.

(A)This discussion shall consider strategies for public model review of third-party models used in rate filings and shall consider that access to the public model is intended to support the use of probabilistic loss modeling in IMAP rate filings made pursuant to Article 1 (commencing with Section 10109).

(B)A proposed public model review shall include a process to determine whether insurer assumptions meet or fail the public catastrophic wildfire loss model standards. Public model review is intended to ensure that to the greatest extent possible, an insurer’s findings, data, actuarial methods, principles, standards, models, or output ranges relied upon to project losses are based on the best available science.

(C)It is the intent of the Legislature to protect from public disclosure proprietary third-party or in-house modeling data submitted by an insurer for evaluation by or comparison with the public model.

(8)Consider strategies for using the public model to help insurers control concentration risk in a wildland urban interface area. The strategies shall include a monitored evaluation process for the assumptions used by an insurer given different modeled predictions for the insurer’s expected average annual loss, probable maximum loss, maximum possible loss, and other metrics.

10109.15.

The members of the advisory committee shall not receive compensation, but shall receive per diem pursuant to Section 11564.5 of the Government Code, and reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of membership duties.

SEC. 8.

The provisions of this act are not severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, all other provisions of this act shall also be held invalid.

SEC. 9.

This act shall become operative only if Assembly Bill 2167 of the 2019–20 Regular Session is enacted and becomes effective on or before January 1, 2021.