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Rep. Hays wants to cut 26 OIR spots, tells Office to 'make it work'

Rep. Alan Hays, no fan of regulation, wants the Office of Insurance Regulation to cut 26 positions -- 23 of them currently filled. He says he's just trying to be financially prudent. OIR officials say the cuts would be "crippling" to the office, which has seen its staffing levels remain basically stagnant since 2003, even while the insurance entities operating in Florida rose fom 3,300 to 3,900.

"I want them to take a look at what's necessary and unnecessary and delete what's unnecessary," he told the Times/Herald this afternoon. "It's to save money and cut out unnecessary paperwork for the state and for the companies."

Hays not only wants to cut the positions (whereas the Senate proposes eliminating five spots that are already vacant), he sent OIR a list of exactly which positions. OIR says no other agency has gotten such a list. Hays proposes cutting actuaries, senior attorney and high-level regulatory positions that OIR spokesman Ed Domansky says are more crucial than ever as smaller companies move into the Florida insurance market. And he pointed out that OIR regulates life and health insurance companies, not just property insurance.

"One of the key things we do is look at these smaller companies to make sure of their financial capabilities," he said. "We operate right now in a lean and strategic manner. This would be crippling."

In a series of e-mails between Hays and OIR chief of staff Audrey Brown, Hays makes clear he has little sympathy.

When Brown e-mailed Hays on Saturday to stress that the proposal will "devastate the Office and make it so we are unable to meet our statutorily required responsibilities," Hays shot back with: "My analysis of your organizational chart yields the proposed cuts.  As far as I am concerned, what you see is what you get.  Find a way to make it work."

Hays' proposal would save $1.8 million, but none of it is general revenue. OIR's budget comes from a trust fund.