Gallagher questions need for mandatory auto insurance

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 11:54 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE - Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher raised the possibility of repealing mandatory auto insurance Tuesday and told a gathering of newspaper editors and reporters that he will not run for the U.S. Senate next year.

The Republican Cabinet member raised the auto coverage issue when asked about sharply rising rates for various types of insurance during an appearance at the annual Associated Press legislative planning session.

"I'm wondering whether we ought to have mandatory automobile insurance or not," Gallagher said. "Twenty-five percent of people don't have insurance at any given time even though it's mandatory. . . . So most of us buy uninsured motorist coverage."

Gallagher, who oversees state regulation of insurance and banking, said one way people can reduce insurance costs is to buy less coverage.

He said there is little that state regulators can do to rein in rising rates because they are based in part on cyclical changes in an unregulated worldwide reinsurance market. Insurance companies also are raising rates to make up for investment losses, he said.

Gallagher is a frequent candidate, winning elections for the Legislature and Cabinet, and losing twice in Republican primaries for governor. At the urging of party leaders in 2000 he ran again for insurance commissioner - an office abolished and replaced by his present position last year - instead of the U.S. Senate.

Tuesday, however, he said he would not run for the Senate in 2004 although Florida may have an open seat because U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., is considering a run for president instead of seeking re-election.

Gallagher, however, may be eyeing another campaign for governor in 2006 because term limits will bar Gov. Jeb Bush from running again.

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