Applicant

Insurance commissioner

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Applicant Robert Howell is asking you to hire him for the role of treasurer, which pays $174,843 per year. His resume:

Robert Howell

Business owner

Professional Profile

Robert Howell is the longtime president of a cybersecurity equipment manufacturer in Silicon Valley, and is running for insurance commissioner as a self-described “Reagan Republican.” He narrowly eked out second place in the primary, surpassing Democratic state Assemblymember Marc Levine by one-tenth of a percentage point. Howell will challenge incumbent Commissioner Ricardo Lara in the November election.

Howell says that he’s committed to helping wildfire victims, and says he will fight waste, fraud, and “abusively inflated” insurance premiums. He also says he will not take money from insurance companies. 

Howell has run for office twice before. In March 2020, he competed in a primary for a state Senate seat representing District 15, a segment of Silicon Valley that includes San Jose and Cupertino. Howell finished fourth out of seven candidates, and did not advance to the general election. In November 2020, Howell ran for a spot on the board of the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, but did not win. 

Experience

President and chief engineer at Exatron 

1974 – present

Board of Directors, Liberty Forum of Silicon Valley

Board member of a nonprofit that hosts monthly speakers and promotes “the principles of American liberty and freedom.”

References

  • California Republican Party
  • California Republican Assembly
  • Silicon Valley Association of Republican Women

Fun Fact

Howell is an Eagle scout, as are his three brothers.

Contact

“Californians deserve real insurance solutions and not more political double-talk.”

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Key Topics
Where Robert Howell Stands on the Issues
The job
Auto insurance
Wildfire coverage
Health Insurance
Campaign money/transparency

The state insurance commissioner regulates the insurance industry in California, including the auto, home and life markets.

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What are your two top priorities in the post?
  1. Stop the insurance red lining in California forest areas. Require insurance carriers to give lower rates to homeowners who take measurable fire precautions and implement safety improvements to their homes and property.
  2. Open up all aspects of the operation of the state Insurance Commissioner’s office for full transparency to the public. Sunlight is always the best antiseptic!
How would you work with the governor and Legislature?

I am a very plain spoken businessman, not a professional politician. The Insurance Commissioner’s post is executive in nature. Many of its operations are independent of both the governor and the Legislature. I pledge to focus my work and that of the 1,400 employees to the benefit of “the people” who pay the mandatory insurance premiums in California.

Californians drove less during the pandemic, cutting collision claims for auto insurers. While Commissioner Lara directed the companies to refund some premiums, saving customers more than $2.4 billion, advocacy groups say that drivers are still owed more. 

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Should California motorists get further discounts for not driving as much during the pandemic?

Yes. I am still waiting for my family’s check. A more public and thorough review of insurance company bottom lines needs to be conducted to fully determine how much money they made during the pandemic. Then return some of it to those motorists that got nothing.

Some cars collect a lot of data. Is California doing enough to protect the privacy of motorists?

There is a need to find out exactly what the state of affairs is right now. I would be willing to let third parties and the press investigate exactly how this situation intersects with the Department of Insurance. Then make those findings available to the public.

Lara also temporarily blocked companies from dropping home insurance policies in wildfire zones and proposed rules to require companies to offer discounts to homeowners who protect their homes.

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Do you believe that homeowners in wildfire zones should have access to affordable insurance policies? If so, how would you do that?

Yes, absolutely. How about a “basic flat rate” for essential fire insurance coverage across the entire state. Makes no difference where you live. Then ladder off that  up or down, dependent on how much coverage is actually needed. The current FAIR plan needs to be reviewed for both affordability and overall effectiveness. We must look to assisting the fire victims first, not last.

Would you support restrictions on new construction in areas with high wildfire risk?

Not sure that is in the purview of the state Insurance Commissioner. Common-sense building codes should always be reviewed (especially at the local level). Governing decisions that are made closest to the people are usually the best. I would travel to the most impacted areas and conduct town halls to listen to those that have been impacted directly. There will be many great ideas generated and hopefully implemented as a result.

Health insurance regulation is currently split between the Department of Insurance (run by the insurance commissioner) and the Department of Managed Health Care (whose director is appointed by the governor).

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Should all health insurance regulations be under one roof?

This is a very complicated question. California is unusual in that it has an independently elected state Insurance Commissioner, rather than appointed. If elected, I would generally look to cut red tape and regulations. There are currently too many chefs in the kitchen.

Does the Insurance commissioner have a role to play in controlling the cost of health insurance premiums? If so, what would you do?

A main priority as California Insurance Commissioner is to control the costs on all forms of insurance. I would look into the rates and practices of other similar states, especially those that have lower rates with less regulations. Then ask insurance companies why Californians are paying more. There needs to be more transparency with providing clear explanations of the rate-setting process.

Do you support a single-payer health insurance system in which the state provides coverage to all Californians?

No. I do not. There are many problems associated with this type of socialized medicine in other countries. I am OK if California can find ways to afford paying for those that are truly in need. California should not be in the medical provider business.

Lara accepted campaign donations from the insurance industry after pledging not to do so. 

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Would you support a ban on campaign contributions from those in the industry you regulate?

Yes! Most certainly, cast in stone. Should have been mandated when voters created the Insurance Commissioner’s office in the 1980s. There have already been two insurance commissioners caught red-handed taking industry money, including the incumbent. My campaign has not taken a dime from the insurance lobby, and we still made it into the top two. We can’t afford anymore “fox guarding henhouse” situations.

Should the commissioner and top officials have to publicly report when they meet with insurance industry representatives, lobbyists, or people who have a financial stake in a department decision?

Yes. Under my administration of the Department of Insurance, all meeting minutes of these gatherings will be made public. My personal schedule and calendar will be an open book from day one. I will implement a policy that allows reasonable access to reporters (from all points of view) to interview department staff who are affected.