An Allstate-financed group that is lobbying for creation of anational catastrophe fund is hailing a bill introduced in the NewYork legislature as an aid to their effort.

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Filed last week, the bill by State Sen. Michael Balboni, R-EastWilliston, would create a New York fund that would involve apublic-private partnership providing a backstop for the state'sproperty-casualty insurers in the event of a major naturalcatastrophe.

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The legislation--titled the New York Consumers CatastrophePreparedness and Protection Act--was applauded by theProtectingAmerica.org group co-chaired by James Lee Witt, a formerFederal Emergency Management Agency director.

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"Sen. Balboni is taking the necessary first steps to prepare NewYorkers for catastrophe and to protect them from the financialconsequences that follow. A statewide financial backstop is animportant start, and federal representatives should follow Sen.Balboni's lead in order to prepare for and protect all Americansfrom mega-catastrophes," said Mr. Witt.

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A spokesman for ProtectingAmerica, Pete McDonough, said New Yorkis so far the only place where there is action in the statelegislature to create such a fund.

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He noted that late last year, two Florida members ofCongress--Rep. Ginny Brown Waite and Clay Shaw, bothRepublicans--had introduced a proposed federal measure to create anational catastrophe fund.

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While Allstate has provided seed money, Mr. McDonough saidProtectingAmerica.org is reaching out to other sources forfinancial support.

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ProtectingAmerica.org says it includes first responders,emergency management experts, building officials and insuranceindustry leaders as members.

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Mr. McDonough--who is in the Trenton, N.J. office of the Newark,N.J.-based Winning Strategies firm--said legislation for acatastrophe fund in New Jersey is expected "in a couple ofmonths."

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The New York bill was assigned to the Senate Finance Committeefor review. In the Assembly, Peter Newell, a spokesman forAssemblyman Alexander "Pete" Grannis, D-Manhattan, the AssemblyInsurance Committee's chair, said while he was not ruling the billout, "we're not in the cheerleader column for this yet."

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Mr. Newell suggested New York lawmakers would like to know whatthe experience and impact on capacity and rates has been in Floridaand other states that already have catastrophe funds.

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Mr. McDonough said a full-scale national launch of thecatastrophe fund effort will be made in March, and this FridayAllstate Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy would make the casefor the fund before the National Press Club in Washington.

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Allstate's interest in a catastrophe fund is understandable, asthe insurer had third-quarter losses of more than $3 billion fromHurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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