Legislative Update, Thursday, Feb. 16

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Mary McNally

Insurance bills under consideration

By Freddy Monares

Supporters of Senate Bill 58 say they’re afraid to report damages covered under their insurance policies because they might be disqualified from renewing.

The bill would make it so that zero-dollar claims, which do not pay any money out to the insured, would not be allowed to count against someone for their insurance.

Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings, says some insurance companies consider a phone call a zero-dollar claim.

“At some point you might have a real claim and if the game is to get you off the books before that happens, I’m not sure if I have a lot of sympathy for that,” McNally said.

State Farm Insurance lobbyist Gregory Van Horssen, though, said, “We should be able to get out of contracts if we choose to get out of contracts; it is contract law.”

The bill passed out of the Senate on a 43-7 vote.

Lawmakers are are considering a bill that would force insurance companies to set auto insurance rates based off an individual’s driving record, rather than using personal characteristics like online shopping habits and education.

Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, is the sponsor of the House Bill 291.

“This has nothing to do with your risk as a driver, it has (to do with) how much they can take out of your pocketbook,” Jacobson said.

State Farm Insurance lobbyist Gregory Van Horssen said State Farms opposes the bill “because it removes from the insurance company the opportunity to utilize very important and predictive tools to allow them to accurately price our insurance product.”

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Training time for barbers, cosmetologists could be cut

By Cole Grant

A bill in the Montana Legislature would reduce the number of training hours a cosmetologist or barber needs to apply for a license in the state.

Montana requires 2,000 total curriculum hours to apply to be a licensed cosmetologist. House Bill 393 would bring that number down to 1,500. According to the American Institute for Research, the national average is around that number.

Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings, says the bill would help students get through school faster and not get into so much debt.

“So if they can go to school for nine months instead of a year, roughly, from 2,000 hours to 1,500 hours required, they have a higher chance of success as well.”

The bill would also bring the 1,500 hours of training needed to apply to become a licensed barber down to 1,100.

The House Business and Labor Committee will hear the bill Friday morning.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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