Homeowners insurance rates were a hot topic at a meeting of NC-20 on Friday in New Bern.

Homeowners insurance rates were a hot topic at a meeting of NC-20 on Friday in New Bern.

NC-20 is a group of leaders representing the interests of 20 Eastern North Carolina coastal counties.

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, spoke on issues facing the General Assembly, including property insurance, storm water ponds, dredging and wind energy.

Brown said the issue he gets the most calls about is insurance rates in coastal North Carolina.

Brown said he wrote a bill last year that would eliminate any dramatic increases in property insurance, and that would allow the state’s insurance commissioner, Wayne Goodwin, who also spoke at the symposium, the opportunity to negotiate with the North Carolina Rate Bureau.

“He assured me it would not go up,” Brown said. “… I think the commissioner caved in on the coastal rate increase. … My argument is he blames the rating bureau. But he gets to negotiate.”

Brown said he was considering if the state needs an insurance rating bureau or an elected insurance commissioner. He wondered if it would be better if the insurance commissioner was an appointed position.

Brown said he was trying to push a bill that would lower rates for coastal homeowners.

Tom Thompson, chairman of the Eastern North Carolina nonprofit group with the motto “Twenty Counties…One Voice,” said in an earlier interview that efforts of NC-20 to save property owners on insurance rates could have more than a $7 billion impact.

Thompson pointed to computer modeling that is predicating a 39-inch rise in sea level over the next 88 years as “flawed science.” He said NC-20 gathered data generated by a broad range of other scientists that disputed the claims of sea level rise. He said it would be more likely an eight-inch increase in sea level.

Larry Baldwin, vice president of regulatory affairs for NC-20, told about 100 people at the symposium that the nonprofit has intervened repeatedly to dispute the claims of a 39-inch rise in sea level.

“We were told it would not affect us,” he said. But insurance companies are using the data, he added.

NC-20 was in support of diversity of ideas instead of “group science,” Baldwin said.

Goodwin said his office had no control over when the insurance bureau, representing insurance companies, could call for a filing, or rate increase.

The bureau filed in October for a 30 percent increase in property insurance rates for every coastal county, and during a public comment period that same month, the Department of Insurance received more than 9,000 comments complaining the increase was excessive.

A statewide settlement between the Department of Insurance and the N.C. Rate Bureau was reached in October to raise rates statewide an average of 7 percent (mostly in the western portion of the state). The settlement raised rates 1 percent in Craven County and 1 percent in nine of the 20 Eastern North Carolina counties. Insurance increases were as much as 17 percent on the northern Barrier Islands and 19.8 percent in the southern areas such as Wilmington, where hurricanes strike the coast more often, Goodwin said.

On July, 1 the increases will take effect. Homeowners will see the difference based on their policy renewals, Godwin said.

Willo Kelly, president of NC-20, also spoke on the Bigger Water Act of 2012 and how it will affect the region, and Rudi Rudolph spoke on how regulations to protect loggerhead turtles would affect development and homeowners.

The symposium was halted just before lunch after Terry Frank, a Carteret County commissioner, suffered an apparent heart attack. Two people at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center were able to revive him with CPR just as emergency personnel arrived.

Frank was taken to CarolinaEast Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition.