Senator to lead insurance office

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COLUMBIA - Sen. Scott Richardson is resigning his Senate seat to take over as director of the state Department of Insurance, pending Senate approval, Gov. Mark Sanford announced Wednesday.

In choosing Mr. Richardson, R-Hilton Head Island, Mr. Sanford cited concerns over the growing cost - and declining availability - of coastal property insurance and said that as a former insurance company owner who lives on the coast, Mr. Richardson has the necessary background.

Insurers are dropping the policies of thousands of coastal property owners and increasing premiums by double- and triple-digit percentages.

"We're going to have to look at things like what is the least expensive and most efficient way of managing risk on a coast that's changing," Mr. Sanford said. "Should coastal residents bear all the costs, or should it be borne by all the citizens of South Carolina? Should the costs be paid for with private capital or subsidized through government?"

The announcement came on the same day Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell introduced his "South Carolina Insurance Accountability, Reorganization and Relief Act of 2007."

Mr. McConnell's act would:

- Allow the director of insurance to be elected by the public, not appointed by the governor

- Replace the so-called "wind pool," a group of insurers required to provide rain and hail insurance to coastal property owners, with the South Carolina Hurricane Underwriting Association, to provide hurricane insurance to qualified property owners along the coast

- Authorize the creation of a catastrophe model, which is used to assess insurers' potential risk and plays a role in the cost of insurance.

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