A local lawmaker is co-sponsoring a new auto insurance reform bill.

Michigan residents over recent years have consistently been at or near the top of the list for paying the most for auto insurance. Republican State Representative Lana Theis of Brighton Township is working with five others in the House on the package. Theis, who chairs the House Insurance Committee, says the new bill package would eliminate the no-fault system and move Michigan to a tort system similar to that which 40 other states are currently using. Theis says the legislation would lower costs for drivers and bring noticeable savings.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity to solve a very significant problem,” Theis told WHMI. “This is a problem that’s been going on for decades. This is the single thing that we can do for Michigan where we can save our citizens thousands of dollars, not just $100 or $50. If you could change somebody’s pocketbook $1,000 a year, that’s a major deal.”

Theis said that drivers would still be required to have insurance but this would provide greater choice and flexibility by eliminating the requirement to buy unlimited medical coverage. Accident victims under the legislation would have the ability to sue drivers found to be at-fault for economic and non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Theis pointed at savings around 35% in other states that have abandoned no-fault insurance and said that Michigan drivers could see that number here grow even higher. The bill package will be formally read into the record next week.

This marks the second attempt to get auto insurance reform legislation through the GOP controlled House. House Bill 5013, sponsored by Theis, was voted down 45-63 after hours of behind-the-scenes arm twisting and an extensive floor debate last November. Critics countered that the measure would gut quality benefits for the injured, shift costs to Medicaid and not stop insurers' discriminatory practices by which urban drivers pay more due to factors that have nothing to do with their driving history. They also contended that the rate reductions would not be guaranteed. (MK/JM)