CHARLESTON — Statehouse observers were keenly interested last week when Democrat Delegate Teddy “Ted” Tomblin of Logan and the 24th District voted against a bill that would have raised automobile insurance requirements in the Mountain State.
The primary reason for the high level of interest was that Tomblin actually provided the deciding vote that stopped the bill while being an insurance agent who would arguably have benefited if the bill moved forward.
In an exclusive interview at his capitol office Friday, Tomblin said he will always put the interests of his constituents ahead of any personal gain. “We’re not here to benefit ourselves,” Tomblin said. “My job is to look out for the best interests of West Virginians, particularly those in southern West Virginia.”
Tomblin said he had received criticism from some fellow insurance agents and brokers who complained that he should have voted in favor of the bill. Tomblin’s “no” vote led to a tie in committee. In the legislature, a tie vote is the same as a defeat and the bill is now considered dead.
Currently, minimum requirements for automobile insurance in any accident are $20,000 for bodily injury, $40,000 for bodily injury and $10,000 for destruction of property. The defeated bill would have raised those requirements to $50,000, $100,000 and $25,000 respectively.
Tomblin said he understood the argument that current values are too low with modern costs for medical attention and other costs. “But my thought is that, at least at these values, most people can afford their insurance premium. If we raise it to the standards in that bill, I don’t think people can afford it.”
Thus, the delegate said, he felt people would acquire an insurance policy number and then cancel their coverage or not continue it when it expires. “I think the result would have been even more drivers without insurance at all,” he said.
Tomblin acknowledged that raising the requirements would have made more money for him and other agents. “Of course the premiums would be higher,” said Tomblin. “That is not why I am here, though, to raise fees for myself.”
The Logan delegate said he was a bit surprised at how much attention his position has received. “I really don’t see any conflict here,” he said, matter-of-factly. “My job is to represent the people and look out for their interests, not my own personal ones.”
Although he has been criticized by fellow agents, Tomblin concluded by saying he felt he had made the “right decision for the people. I don’t regret killing that bill for one minute.”