MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday to remove the Alabama Department of Insurance from the state's sunset law provision and increase the scope of the department's police powers.

Both House Bill 139 (HB139) and House Bill 140 (HB140), both sponsored by State Rep. Corley Ellis (R-Columbiana), passed the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday.

HB139 removed the Alabama Department of Insurance from the state's sunset provision, which requires the legislature to re-up state boards every four years for their continued operation. The bill now removes the necessity of the legislature to approve the board every four years.

Currently, state law grants arrest powers to the Department of Insurance for crimes related to insurance fraud. HB 140 gives the Insurance Fraud Unit the authority to "execute arrest warrants" and "arrest upon probable cause without warrant a person found in the act of violating or attempting to violate" any state law discovered during an investigation. Additionally, HB140 increases the statute of limitations for insurance crime from two years to seven.

Ellis said that some common crimes uncovered are identity theft, elder abuse, and theft of property. Those in the fraud unit are required to be certified by the Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission (APOSTC). However, they do not fall under the umbrella of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

HB 140 passed the House without a single "no" vote. However, State Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) did express some concerns about broadening the enforcement of the fraud unit.

"I don't want someone under the guise of having done insurance fraud to be unduly investigated and probably falsely arrested for some activity that they really are not doing," Moore said.  

The final vote for HB13 was 98-1, and HB 140 passed with a vote of 100-0. The bill will now move to the Senate. 

Last week, the House approved comprehensive gambling legislation that would also create a non-ALEA enforcement arm with arrest powers through the proposed Alabama Gaming Commission.  

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