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Calif. wildfire insurance bill placed on suspense

California's Assembly Appropriations Committee placed the wildfire insurance bill sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on suspense following objections from the Department of Finance and Consumer Watchdog.

S.B. 290 unanimously passed the state Senate and a previous assembly committee following Lara's approval. However, the bill was pulled from the committee's consent calendar after the finance department and Consumer Watchdog pointed out its flaws, such as the "unnecessary" financial risks it would expose taxpayers to.

The finance department said in its analysis that the bill could also lead to "high and financially unstable" premiums for the state because of insurers' wariness of the wildfire risk in California.

S.B. 290 is not necessary because the state governor has an emergency authority to buy insurance or other financial instruments to hedge against the possibility of a costly wildfire season, according to the finance department. Under the bill, the purchase of such insurance and financial products would have been exempted from the usual state oversight.