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Inside Olympia – Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Commissioner

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May 27, 2021

This week host Austin Jenkins goes in depth with two of Washington’s statewide elected officials: Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

Before winning election as lieutenant governor in November, Heck was a U.S. representative from Washington’s 10th Legislative District. He says Congress is broken — and contrasts that with the State Legislature. After the April 25th adjournment, Heck released a statement praising both majority Democrats and minority Republicans for the civility with which they debated the issues, a challenge he says was made more complicated by a session that was conducted largely virtual.

Heck also calls the 2021 session the most consequential he’s seen in his 4-1/2 decades of observing the legislature, citing major legislation dealing with police reform, climate change, racial and social equity, along with the state budget. He compares it to the 1977 session, when the Legislature passed major public employee pension reform, the Basic Education Act, and juvenile justice reform.

As lieutenant governor, Heck chairs the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations. The Legislature provided funding for the LCEDIR to conduct a business competitiveness study, which Heck says hasn’t been done in nearly a decade. He cites aerospace and broadband as two areas of particular focus for his office.

Mike Kreidler is serving his sixth term as the state’s insurance commissioner. Recently, through executive order, using his emergency powers during COVID, Kreidler enacted a three-year ban on the insurance industry practice of using credit stores in the setting of rates for auto, renters’ and homeowners’ insurance. Kreidler says the practice is unfair, and has an outsized impact on poor people and communities of color.

It’s something Kreidler has sought for years, but has not been able to push through the Legislature, including in 2021. The insurance industry sued Kreidler over his emergency rule, but Kreidler prevailed in Thurston County Superior Court. The industry, while disagreeing with the rule, has announced it will comply, and Kreidler says 99% of companies are already in compliance. Kreidler promises another run at the Legislature in 2022, when he thinks the idea of a permanent statutory ban on credit scoring will gain more traction.

On other insurance-related issues, Kreidler says one silver lining of COVID is telehealth, which has been used extensively and effectively during the pandemic; assures the public that getting vaccinated will not affect your life insurance; and praises the Legislature passing a bill regarding insurance coverage for treatment of transgender persons.

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