Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Wayne Goodwin
Date of Birth: Feb. 22, 1967
Campaign Web Site: www.WayneGoodwin.org
Occupation & Employer: Assistant Insurance Commissioner; NC Dept of Insurance
Years lived in North Carolina: 41 and ½ years (all my life)
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the office of Insurance Commissioner? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
I believe the most important issues facing the office of Insurance Commissioner are:
- Preventing certain segments of the insurance industry from taking advantage of an "open seat" by their attempts to elect a candidate who reads straight from the special interest playbook, and preventing the insurance industry from stripping the Insurance Commissioner of his current authority regarding consumer protection. The insurance industry tried to do so in 2006 and in 2007. I believe these forces will redouble their efforts after 2008 because there will be a new Commissioner. However, this is the very reason why it is vital that North Carolinians elect an Insurance Commissioner who has been a regulator (e.g., I've been Assistant Insurance Commissioner for 3 and ½ years already) and who has the legislative experience and relationships (e.g., I have 4 terms of House service) to dissuade the General Assembly from taking disastrous steps. We do not need the fox guarding the henhouse.
- Stabilizing the insurance market here in North Carolina -- Our system of property and casualty (P&C) rate-setting and regulation, though not perfect, has worked so well that we have the lowest automobile insurance rates in the South and regularly do much better than similarly-sized States regarding accessibility and affordability. Certain proposals floating around the legislature and from some persons in industry could de-stabilize the market, thereby harming consumers and industry alike. We need incremental reforms in how we set insurance rates for auto, workers' comp, homeowners, and the Beach Plan. The best risks should pay the best rates, the worst risks should pay appropriate rates.
- Committing to the constant upgrade of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes to reflect the constantly-changing technology in society, so that those in the insurance industry and consumers alike benefit from increasing efficiencies.
- Addressing the concerns about insurance company solvency and the appropriate reserves set aside regarding coastal insurance, especially since the State has been blessed in its avoidance of major storms along the coast in recent years. A severe storm will devastate the Beach and Fair Plans, which means we must prepare now to prevent that or we will face a serious crisis for homeowners after the next hurricane season. With all the recent turmoil on Wall Street and around the Nation presently, our next Insurance Commissioner must protect us from insolvent companies.
my top three priorities in addressing these issues are:
(1) Fighting always for low, fair, reasonable, and appropriate insurance rates for consumers, working families, and businesses – while maintaining and improving upon the availability of a competitive insurance market in North Carolina. As Insurance Commissioner, my administration will focus even more on health insurance affordability and accessibility, and solving the coastal insurance crisis as we prepare for the next major storm.
(2) Protecting consumers and industry alike from insurance fraud, including fighting fraud by unscrupulous insurance companies, unlicensed/out-of-state agents, and collection agencies who take advantage of persons in a time of need, injury, or loss.
(3) Defeating any attempts to strip the Insurance Commissioner (and, by inference, the Department of Insurance) of authority in the rate-setting process and defeating attempts by the insurance industry to allow multiple rate requests per year
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the board? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
My record as a public official and my professional experience demonstrate that I will be the most effective among the 2008 candidates for Insurance Commissioner.
I have worked as Assistant Commissioner of Insurance for more than three years. Also in that role with the Department of Insurance, I have served as Assistant State Fire Marshal. Either alongside or – when necessary – in place of Commissioner Jim Long, I have performed duties of the Insurance Commissioner as directed. Those duties include:
- Overseeing the two regional offices (New Bern and Asheville) of the Department of Insurance, together responsible for handling insurance-related consumer needs in 65 counties;
- Managing the Office of State Fire Marshal, an office which serves[cdp1] <http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&view=js&name=js&ver=L0TusViboKI&am=X_E4pcT3fCGN2LIggw#_msocom_1> 47,000 firefighters and many other groups such as building code inspectors and manufactured housing businesses;
- Serving as hearing officer on administrative matters involving insurance agents charged with violations that put their licenses in jeopardy;
- Strategizing regularly with the Commissioner as a member of his Senior Staff;
- Providing counsel, advice and strategy to the Commissioner in his role as a member of the Council of State;
- Drafting legislation and representing him and the Department before committees of the legislature; and,
- Representing the Insurance Commissioner (and performing some of his requisite duties) in a multitude of ways in and outside the State of North Carolina.
I also worked as Assistant General Counsel for the Department of Insurance between my legislative service and my elevation to Assistant Insurance Commissioner. In that role I handled legal matters as assigned to me. Those duties required me to work with the Attorney General's office, insurance industry counsel, and consumers.
Highly relevant to the office of Insurance Commissioner is my four terms (8 years) of service as an elected State Representative in the General Assembly. Most of my colleagues continue to serve in the legislature; the relationships developed over that time and my unique ability to persuade, or dissuade when appropriate, my colleagues on matters pertaining to consumers, public safety, and the insurance industry will prove quite vital to a successful term as Insurance Commissioner. In fact, I can state without question that my recent legislative service has helped me immensely already in my work as Assistant Commissioner of Insurance because that experience helped me successfully advocate for the Department's position on myriad items. Moreover, while in the legislature myself I sponsored significant insurance legislation of benefit to consumers and families. Greatly enhancing my effectiveness as Insurance Commissioner is that I have a proven record of working across the political divide, gaining trust and support from lawmakers and others from North Carolina's political parties.
Also of significance is my work in the private sector. For 13+ years, in my capacity as an attorney, I represented consumers and small businesses who had been wrongly denied insurance coverage or whose claims had been undervalued.
I am the only Insurance Commissioner candidate who is truly best prepared to lead the Department of Insurance from Day One!
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I have always been a Democrat and always will be. Though I typically eschew labels, I consider myself a Terry Sanford-Jim Hunt Democrat – most certainly a progressive Democrat who has a proven record over 8 years in the legislature and 4 years of chairing the Platform Committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Because of my strong emphasis on consumer protection and reasonable regulation in the public interest, my political philosophy is clearly present in both my past achievements and my campaign platform. When the Independent Weekly endorsed me for Labor Commissioner in 2004, I believe my record of consumer (and workplace) protection and reasonable regulation in the public interest was in large part the basis for that strong – and much appreciated - endorsement.
4. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I define a "just" community as a community where there is fairness and equality. If elected as Insurance Commissioner, my pledge to always seek fair and equitable insurance rates will help in furthering the goal of a just community. In my commitment to seeking affordable, accessible health insurance for everyone, we will also contribute toward building that just community we and The Independent seek. I tremble at what may happen to our consumers and working families in the Triangle if the next Insurance Commissioner is a puppet of the insurance industry or doesn't understand the intricacies of the job. If voters choose me as their Commissioner, then consumers and working families and all persons seeking a just community will be in much better hands.
5. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
It is likely in the area of coastal insurance. Experts for years have told us of the dangers of continuing to build closer and closer to the shoreline. Global climate change, rising ocean waters, and common shoreline erosion are all enemies of persons who choose to build closest to the ocean. Notwithstanding reasons to the contrary, there are still many who build the mega-size, multi-million dollar beach homes (often not their primary residence either) and, when there is a major storm, choose to re-build in the same location even though the public and/or private insurors helped pay for the rebuilding. To properly address concerns about coastal insurance carriers having appropriate reserves, whether rates on the coast actuarially reflect the true risk, and to increase public safety, I will continue my partnership with the first responders and engineers who promote stronger building codes on the coast, and promote protections from windborne debris. I will also promote necessary reforms in the current "Beach Plan". This principled stand may not win me popularity points with voters who live within 1 mile of the ocean or the homebuilders who make money off them, but it is the right thing to do. It is a matter of public safety, as well as financial and actuarial responsibility.
6. Will you accept campaign contributions from donors employed by insurers and their PACs? Why or why not?
As noted in my campaign already, I rejected campaign contributions above $200 from individuals employed by companies regulated by the Insurance Commissioner. Additionally, my campaign and I reject ALL campaign contributions from insurance industry PACs since I filed for Insurance Commissioner. The limitation to $200 or less is based on the pilot voluntary, public financing program in place for the 2008 election of Insurance Commissioner. My being the first Insurance Commissioner candidate to "opt in" to the public financing program is a drastic change from the usual Insurance Commissioner election campaign where candidates routinely ask for and receive contributions up to $4,000. As a publicly financed candidate, I have refused ALL contributions since May 6, 2008.
7. What's your view of Blue Cross Blue Shield's role as a nonprofit insurance company acting in the public interest? What action would you take to influence their policies?
Consistent with my position while a State legislator and based on all information available to me at the current time, I will oppose conversion to a for-profit enterprise. During my legislative service I learned time and again about the founding of Blue Cross Blue Shield as a nonprofit insurance company and how the State gave the company special treatment in the tax laws, etc., as part of its commitment to the public interest.
As for your question about "action to influence their policies," I intend to do the same with any insurance company or group that has either a direct or indirect relationship with the Department: That is, I will fervently maintain and build on an open line of communications so that my emphasis on consumer protection/competitive insurance markets/affordable health insurance is regularly shared with BCBS and will encourage BCBS to use that same line of personal communications to keep me apprised of its policies relevant to the Department of Insurance and my obligations as Insurance Commissioner. I will treat all companies and entities within the jurisdiction of Insurance Commissioner equal under the law.
8. Given that this election represents the first turnover in Insurance Commissioner in 24 years, give your opinion of the current commissioner's tenure, both kudos and criticisms.
It has been an honor to serve in the Department of Insurance as Jim Long's Assistant Commissioner for the past three years. I have had an up-close view of the current Commissioner, learning in great detail about the inner workings of the Department and how it meets its mission as a consumer advocate and how the Insurance Commissioner position exists to serve a dual purpose (consumer protection/low, reasonable insurance rates; and ensuring that solvent insurance companies operate in a competitive market). I have admired Commissioner Long's service and his approach to fair and balanced regulation.
Something of which the general public is not aware is the prominent role that the Insurance Commissioner (most profoundly during Jim Long's tenure) has in the realm of safety preparedness and injury prevention. In his joint role as State Fire Marshal he has worked very closely with firefighters and other first responders all across North Carolina. More than any past Insurance Commissioner, he has been a stalwart supporter of the fire service. Commissioner Long's administration has focused on preparedness – case in point is the $72 million he has distributed in grants for equipment to fire and rescue departments over the last 20 years – and has exhibited an unwavering determination regarding injury prevention. Regarding injury prevention, Commissioner Long founded the Safe Kids program here and it now reaches every corner of the State and is part of a worldwide program. In addition, I am most proud to call him my friend.
As time has passed during his 24 years of service, the insurance climate and the insurance market have constantly evolved. On that point in particular, as part of that evolution we have witnessed how health care and health insurance have become one of the greatest issues facing North Carolina today and into the foreseeable future. As Insurance Commissioner, I will bring a greater focus to this particular issue because it is sorely needed in this day and time.
I neither offer nor have any criticism of my good friend and faithful public servant. However, I do point out that this election is an opportunity for a new Insurance Commissioner to use that new Commissioner's specific talents, record, experiences, and goals to address with a fresh start the challenges we face in January 2009, while still building upon the multitude of successes in the Jim Long administration.
9. State law does not protect public employees from discrimination because of sexual orientation or identity. As an employer and department head, will you?
I abhor discrimination of any kind. As an agency head, I will allow the same protections for all public employees, and will not allow discrimination because of orientation or identity.
10. Should state law be changed to protect LGBT persons from workplace discrimination?
State law should not allow workplace discrimination. I believe in equal protection and due process for all persons. Please also see my answer to the previous question.
11. Should state law be changed to allow public employees in North Carolina to bargain collectively?
This specific question does not come within the purview of the Insurance Commissioner, an Executive Branch office, but is a Legislative Branch issue. That being said, I believe State law and federal law should be consistent. And, for the record, I have been endorsed by both business and labor because of my experience and my desire to keep insurance rates low and fair, and to seek more accessible, more affordable health insurance – issues which matter to both workers and employers.
12. As member of the Council of State, you would have input on the issue of the death penalty, including the execution protocol, which was taken up by the Council last year. Do you feel qualified to vote on such issues? If so, how would you vote on the execution protocol and other death penalty matters that may come before the Council? And is the Council of State an appropriate body to deliberate these issues?
As Insurance Commissioner Jim Long's Assistant Commissioner, I followed this matter very closely as it was considered by the Council of State and provided, as was my job, both advice and counsel on every facet of the subject to the best of my ability. His Council of State vote on this is a matter of public record. As an attorney, I have concerns about the Council of State considering any action on such an issue without the opportunity for all persons to present their position to the Council of State; that is, I have due process concerns. Even then, in my opinion, the issue of the execution protocol should fall instead within the penumbra of the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. Until the statute is amended or stricken, though, and before voting on the execution protocol or any death penalty-related matters, I pledge this: I will remain very deliberate and cautious; do an ample amount of research; consider the matter before me with extreme care; and pray about it before making such a serious decision.