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Riley rejects car insurance bill

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Bob Riley decided Friday to block legislation that would have raised the minimum amount of liability insurance that
Alabama motorists must buy because he was concerned it didn't give policyholders time to comply.

Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, said the governor agrees with the bill's intentions, but he will not sign it into law because it is worded so that the new insurance requirements would take effect the moment he finished his signature.

Emerson said Riley would support passage of the bill in a future session of the Legislature provided it has an implementation period for insurance companies to prepare new policies and motorists to buy them.

"He thinks the bill is well-intentioned and he supports the concept," Emerson said.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, guided it through the Legislature on the last meeting day, June 7. Bedford said he was disappointed with the governor's decision because insurance companies could have sold new policies when motorists' old policies expired.

Bedford said he will be back next year with the bill. The legislation, a compromise between plaintiff lawyers and insurance companies, would have required motorists to have at least $25,000 in coverage for one injury or death, $50,000 for multiple injuries or deaths, and $25,000 for property damage. The current requirements are $20,000, $40,000 and $10,000, respectively.

The two largest auto insurance companies in Alabama said most of their customers already met or exceeded the proposed requirements.

For bills that passed on the Legislature's last meeting day, Riley has until Sunday to sign them into law or kill them by not signing them, a process known as "pocket veto." Riley, who was on an industrial trip to France on Friday, worked with his staff in Alabama to try to finish up the duties before the weekend.

Emerson said Riley had signed a bill to let the state agriculture commissioner spend state money entertaining business prospects like the state's industrial recruiters do.

He also signed a bill, pushed by Attorney General Troy King, that would let children under 16 testify in sex abuse trials via closed circuit without the defendants being in the same room as the children.

Emerson said the governor had decided not to sign a bill that would have cut $20 off the tax placed on each ton of hazardous waste and polychlorinated biphenyls sent to the Waste Management landfill near the West Alabama town of Emelle. Proponents of the legislation had said it would create new jobs at the landfill, but Emerson said the bill would reduce revenue and the governor had seen no proof it would increase employment.

From Riley’s desk

  • APPROVED a bill to allow children under 16 testify in sex abuse trials via closed circuit.

  • REJECTED a bill to raise the minimum amount of liability insurance Alabama motorists must buy.

    Source: Governor’s communications office.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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