Generations ago, firemen were vital to the operation of locomotives. Firemen were the guys who shoveled coal into the furnace to create steam and power engines.
Then came diesel engines, which were cheaper, more efficient and didn’t need a coal shoveler. But the railroad unions didn’t see it that way. And so for decades trains continued to carry firemen, although they were no longer soiled by coal.
A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described how Georgia government has created a modern day fireman — the state insurance commissioner.
The article, published on July 23 and written by colleagues Carrie Teegardin and James Salzer, said Georgia last year saw the highest increases in the nation for personal auto insurance rates — more than twice the average, 12.2 percent vs. 5.6 percent. Not only that, the state was first or second the previous three years.
Since 2011, Ralph Hudgens has picked up a check as insurance commissioner, the elected official charged with regulating insurance in Georgia. But when it comes to protecting consumers from car insurance rate hikes, he’s as useful as a fellow with a coal shovel on a diesel engine.
When asked if he was trying to do something to hold down rates, Hudgens told the AJC reporters, “I can’t — the state law, those guys over there, have taken that ability away from me.”
Back in 2008, “those guys,” the state Legislature, the business-friendly fraternity that adores unfettered, free market, lightly regulated commerce, voted to take the handcuffs off insurance companies and slap them on the insurance commissioner. After that, car insurance companies in Georgia in almost all cases could increase rates without state approval.
It was a bill that was tacked onto another bill and sneaked through both chambers in record time, because that’s how those things work.
Hudgens, in fact, was also one of “those guys” in the Legislature. But he was not just a mere “guy,” he was chairman…