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House passes bill to renew terror insurance program

By Andrew Taylor
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House passed long-sought legislation Wednesday to renew the federal program that props up the private market for insurance against terrorist attacks.

The 416-5 vote revives the government’s terrorism risk insurance program, which provides a backstop in which the government covers the bulk of losses in the event of a major terrorist attack. The guarantee has made private companies more willing to underwrite policies against terrorist attacks.

The legislation had passed the House last month after extensive delays but died in the Senate. The Senate is likely to take up the measure shortly.

The legislation would decrease the government’s exposure by gradually increasing the “trigger” at which the program starts to cover terrorist attacks from $100 million to $200 million in losses. The government’s share of catastrophic losses gradually would be lowered from 85 percent to 80 percent.

The program began in 2002 after the market for terrorism insurance collapsed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It originally was designed to be a temporary program, but the hoped-for revival of the private market for terrorism insurance failed. The government has never paid out under the law.

The legislation is important to sectors such as construction, real estate, hospitality and major sports leagues, which face crippling insurance costs if the program expires and rates skyrocket or the market for terrorism insurance collapses altogether.

The measure also includes unrelated legislation, including an add-on that would establish a National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers that would license insurance agents and brokers to operate in multiple states. Insurance is regulated by the states. That provision tripped up the measure in the Senate in December after former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected to it.

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