Arizona motorists are one step closer to having to buy more auto insurance than many of them already purchase.
The Senate on Monday gave preliminary approval to boosting the amount of liability coverage required to drive in Arizona to $25,000 for injuries caused to any one person and $50,000 for all injuries in a single accident. Current law mandates only $15,000 and $30,000 coverage, respectively.
SB1111 also sets the minimum coverage for property damage – generally repairs to someone else’s vehicle – at $25,000, up from $10,000, the current amount.
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, pointed out the current limits were last adjusted in 1972.
“Back in the day, cars didn’t cost what they cost now (and) hospitals didn’t cost what they cost now,” she said.
But Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, said the debate among legislators about what’s appropriate coverage leaves out the one group that is most affected: the people who now buy the bare minimum required.
“Poor people can’t afford lobbyists,” he said.
“We have a lot of folks out there right now that are faced with the choice of keeping their lights on or paying their auto insurance,” Farnsworth continued. “Do we really want to make that worse?”
And Farnsworth argued that constituents of his district, which stretches from east Mesa into Pinal County, will be particularly affected if the rising costs makes driving less affordable.
“There are no buses in my district,” he said.
“When we drive people out of their cars how are they going to get to work?” Farnsworth said. “I guess we’ll just put them all on welfare.”
But Brophy McGee said her legislation is written with the poor in mind.
She said these are the people who buy the minimum insurance with the belief that’s sufficient if that’s all the state requires.
“They find through hard experience that they do not have sufficient insurance to cover the damages,” Brophy McGee said. And, once their insurance is exhausted, they are personally liable for anything above that.
During hearings earlier this year, David Childers, lobbyist for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association, testified that the change would boost premiums for those now buying just the minimal coverage by about $80 a year.
Childers, however, opposed the legislation amid concerns that it will increase the percentage of Arizonans who now go “bare” and drive without any insurance at all. That figure is now estimated at 10.6 percent.
The measure needs a final roll-call vote before going to the House.