Opinion: The Nov. 2022: Questions and Answers with Robert Howell, elected California insurance commissioner

There are two candidates for the Nov. election. 8 for a four-year term as California insurance commissioner: Republican cybersecurity developer Robert Howell and Democrat Ricardo Lara. Here are the answers to a seven-question survey that The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board emailed to Howell.

Q: What makes you the best fit for this job?

Answer: I have read the requirements of the government to qualify for this position. I meet all the requirements. In fact, one requirement requires you to resign if you are employed by the insurance company. I would say that not having anything to do with insurance is a good thing. This position is for someone who represents the people of California, not the insurance companies. Uninsured experience is my top priority. I’ve been buying home and business insurance for over 50 years. I’ve been running a top quality business in the Bay Area for almost 50 years now. I will use my skills to motivate and inspire all 1,400 members of the Commissioner’s team to do their best. While researching past practices, I have good reason to believe that Steve Poizner, a top technology executive, was one of the greatest insurance professionals this world has ever had. I believe that his knowledge of the insurance industry on the first day of office will be the same as mine.

Q: Review Ricardo Lara’s tenure as insurance commissioner and explain how your approach to the job would have been different.

Answer: Examining Ricardo Lara’s tenure as insurance commissioner requires a quick search on Google or in newspapers throughout California. But, for some unknown reason, I now find fewer wrong articles about Lara in Google searches than I did before it started. Could it be because the Republican came in second in the June primary and challenged him on the November ballot? Especially, look at consumerwatchdog.org details page. Consumer Watchdog filed a fraud lawsuit against Lara, with an opening legal brief that is more than 830 pages long. The trial will begin Friday, unless adjourned.

I will do my best to follow the letter of the law as it is written in Proposition 103, which requires “prior approval” of the California Department of Insurance before insurance companies begin to use property and casualty insurance rates. There are requirements in Proposition 103 for citizens and other people called “intervenors” to oversee all the actions of the insurance commissioner and his office. I will encourage them and give them access to any documents they may request. Proposition 103 requires that all solicitations of insurance companies be made public. I will also include all the documents from the insurance companies. This does not mean that I will not allow insurance companies to make a reasonable profit. I say that I will not let him kill.

Personally, I will not allow myself or anyone else in the committee office to accept any gifts, of any kind, from anyone, in the insurance industry. There is no such thing as a “free dinner.”

Question: How can you make sure that homeowners, especially those in wildfire areas, know the steps necessary to remain eligible for home insurance and that insurance companies are treated properly when they need help?

Answer: There are two main points of my campaign: to open the Insurance Office to the public as above and to ensure that every homeowner has fire insurance in the entire state of California. There are many Californians whose only option for motor insurance is the FAIR Plan. My “plan” will be to visit the areas affected by the wildfires and listen to what the people who have been most affected by the wildfires have to say. Check their reviews. Next, sit down with the insurance company and hear about their situation. We already have large insurance companies that are leaving the government partially or completely in this regard. Finally, working with the people in the Commissioner’s office to develop an effective and fair plan for homeowners and insurance companies moving forward, and informing everyone at every stage.

On a personal note, because this is beyond the authority of this office, they say that one aspect of prevention is the need for treatment. I would do everything in my power to get the state Legislature to work on upgrading and improving the electricity and water infrastructure. We need to upgrade our electrical grid to help prevent fires in the first place. But what happens when the grid shuts down with millions of new electric cars on the road? Now add the water works. Having a reliable water supply is probably a good thing when trying to put out a fire.

Q: How can you ensure that property owners can remain insured against the growth of wildfires, droughts, sea level rise and other perils due to weather hazards?

Answer: Please see my answer above. There are other things we can do to prevent fires in the first place that can help homeowners. Start by making sure that homeowners have minimum requirements, permits and other government regulations that make it difficult to prepare their property for a fire in the first place. I’m sure we’ll hear a few good ideas when we talk to people who have been affected by the fire. Over the years, I think Californians have done a great job conserving water. Perhaps it is time for the government to consider building a few new dams. On the sea level question, I would personally like to see the data first. But the bottom line is that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner has no control over any of the above. You should talk to the state legislators.

Q: An insurance professional does not play a major role in health insurance decisions. Should that change? Why?

Answer: The Bureau of Insurance has jurisdiction over other health-related matters such as workers’ compensation and long-term care. Most health insurance coverage is covered by Medi-Cal. Once in office, my views on issues will be limited by the rules governing this office. State legislators must answer to their voters on this point. I am accountable to all Californians for any actions as required by law. This office cannot make laws.

Q: What are your thoughts on Proposition 1, which would enshrine Californians’ right to abortion and birth control in the state constitution?

Answer: This is obviously a very controversial issue. At this point I don’t think the Insurance Commissioner’s office has any jurisdiction in this matter. We’ll have to see what Californians say in November. In any case, I will follow the laws passed by the Parliament as well as all other laws regarding this office.

Q: Why should voters choose your opponent?

A: I buy insurance like any other Californian. I will do everything in my power to keep the insurance industry fair and honest. Any action taken by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner will be made available for public viewing.

I will not accept offers from insurance companies or employers.

I am not in the back pocket of the insurance companies. My enemy is.

I have never worked for an insurance company, sold insurance or had any relationship with an insurance company other than being a client.

I am not a politician. I have no political obligations to anyone.

I have held public office in the past, and won the Republican vote in the 2020 state Senate race.

This is a money job. I think most people would say that the Republicans do a better job of saving them money.

Insurance companies found more money on car insurance during the COVID-19 shutdown with less driving and fewer accidents. I will not be afraid to ask for cash back checks or lower prices.

Check out some of Lara’s pre-primary writing.

Lara was charged with corruption on Friday.

I believe in the principles expressed on consumerwatchdog.org and other like-minded organizations

For all you Republicans out there, I am a staunch conservative. And I admire what Ronald Reagan did for all Californians in his day.

For all you Democrats out there, if you voted for Assemlymember Marc Levine, check it out electroberthowell.com. I agree with many of his ideas about how to fix Ricardo Lara’s Insurance Commissioner’s office. I am asking for your vote. I’m giving you a clear choice: sunshine or scorn.

And to all you independent voters out there, I will do what I say I will do. I’m a little old fashioned; I believe in honoring my role as much as possible.

For all the voters out there, visit my website, electroberthowell.com and read what I stand for. Vote for what you believe I can do for all Californians, not because I have an R or a D after my name when voting.