Backdoor Bullies: Insurance Lobbyists Kill Right to Appraisal Bills

by Chasidy Rae Sisk

Since the 88th legislative session opened in January, ABAT and its members have been hard at work, promoting two pieces of key legislation designed to benefit consumers and the shops that serve them. Unfortunately, neither bill made it through the process to be signed into legislation before time ran out on the Senate floor.

House Bill 1321, the most recent iteration of ABAT’s Safe Repair legislation, sought to require proper repairs based on OEM-recommended processes, in addition to addressing the differences between original and aftermarket parts. The bill (available in its entirety at also attempted to eliminate the “gray” areas as to what a proper repair is and how insurers indemnify policyholders. Although HB1321 was scheduled for public hearing in April by the House Committee on Insurance, it was left pending in committee.

House Bill 1437, ABAT’s second pass at an Appraisal Clause bill (available in its entirety at, would have required insurers to include Right to Appraisal in all policies. This legislative attempt has an even sadder tale…

After being unanimously (7-0) voted out of the House Committee on Insurance, HB1437 was referred to the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce where it received another unanimous vote of 10-0. Seems like it was a shoe-in, right? Well, although it was placed on the intent calendar on May 23, the bill was removed the following day!

“At every turn, something got held up,” lamented ABAT President Burl Richards. “House legislators knew it was important. Our senators voted in favor of the bill. But there’s so much backdoor bullshit going on in politics. We have a lot of determination and grit, but we don’t have the money and power that the insurance lobbyists have, and that’s what matters most in this system. It’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know.”

Although those lobbyists strangled ABAT’s attempts to pass meaningful legislation this session, Richards is proud of the association’s members who made hundreds of phone calls to their legislators, who testified at hearings and engaged customers to collect over 1,200 consumer experiences indicating the benefits of the Appraisal Clause. “We did everything we could and should do, and I’m so proud of this industry for the time they spent advocating on their customers’ behalf. We made a lot of noise, and the legislators heard us loud and clear because they voted unanimously in favor of Right to Appraisal. It all came down to the agenda of a powerful group that prevented our bill from passing, and that’s what makes this so hard to take.”

ABAT Lobbyist Jacob Smith has already reached out to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), stressing the importance of the Appraisal Clause and urging that body to prevent insurers from removing it from their policies. “Just because there’s not a law, that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal,” Richards emphasized. “We got the votes we needed because our legislators recognized that it’s important and necessary; it wouldn’t have made it out of committee if they didn’t realize how much it benefits their constituents. It got held back at the end of the process by a technicality because the insurance industry had the power to stop it, because the insurance industry has more power than they rightfully should have.”

This year’s session may not have turned out as ABAT planned, but those doing battle on the frontline have learned a lot. As ABAT Board member Robert McDorman (Auto Claim Specialists) wrote in last month’s Ask the Expert: “What was taught about democracy in high school government class does not apply here. As an example, when I asked lawmakers why the bill took so long to be set for a hearing in Business and Commerce, I was told that a member was asked to sit on the bill as long as she possibly could by a lobbyist who opposed the bills. When asked how this was possible, I was told this process is called ‘Dark Art at the Capitol.’”

Stay tuned to Texas Automotive for a revealing exposé on those “Dark Arts” later this year! 

Want more? Check out the July 2023 issue of Texas Automotive!