My home insurance jumped, my cable company now charges me to talk to a human, but other than that …

Wow! My homeowners insurance premium jumped 32{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} in one year. I started calling around to learn why. Is this an unreported trend? My insurance broker gave me a couple of reasons. I lost the multipolicy discount, which makes up 25{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} of the $1,000 increase. The rest of the jump, she […]

Wow! My homeowners insurance premium jumped 32{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} in one year.

I started calling around to learn why. Is this an unreported trend?

My insurance broker gave me a couple of reasons. I lost the multipolicy discount, which makes up 25{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} of the $1,000 increase. The rest of the jump, she said, is primarily due to price increases for storm damage and other water-related problems.

That’s not me; I’ve been lucky. I’ve made no recent claims. But Dallas-Fort Worth is one of the hardest hit regions in the state.

Is everyone’s insurance skyrocketing? I could find no evidence of that. Not yet.

Camille Garcia of the Insurance Council of Texas tells The Watchdog, “We’re not aware of any overarching rate increases being taken across Texas.”

Ben Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Insurance says, “Our staff is not seeing rate increases of that size in recent filings.”

I priced another major company and the premium was about the same.

What do you do if you believe your premium is too high? The answer applies to auto insurance, too.

Garcia recommends, which is operated by state regulators. You can shop companies that sell homeowners and auto insurance in Texas.

Gonzalez says that after questioning your company about the increase (mine wouldn’t talk to me and sent me back to my broker) you can file a complaint with Texas Department of Insurance. This allows regulators to view your policy and get the company to explain what went into the final bill.

Because a company rep wouldn’t talk to me, I’m going to file that complaint.

Guess I have homework to do.

Charge to talk to a human

Do you despise companies that now charge you to talk to a human in customer service?

Add Frontier Communications to the list. The company, which bought Verizon Fios’ Texas customers in 2015, is emerging from bankruptcy.

Cost to talk to a human: $1.50.

Spokesman Javier Mendoza says the fee is waived for customers who register as disabled.

“Most people today find information on the Web or through easily accessed automated systems,” he says.

But do we like it?

Not banned

I get no joy in correcting Gov. Greg Abbott. OK, just a little.

Back in April, the gov was talking about the possibility of a decline in this year’s property taxes. In a TV interview, he said: “The fact of the matter is values may decline. And if those values decline, the property owner has a right to the lower valuation in the assessment of their property taxes.”

Values decline? In Texas? I chortle. That sure didn’t happen this year to most people I know.

Here’s the latest. The gov is fond of saying that last year Texans voted to ban a state income tax.

He says that in trying to lure Nasdaq Inc. from New Jersey to Dallas-Fort Worth, he “let them know that we just passed a constitutional amendment banning an income tax in Texas.”

No, sir. We didn’t.

We voted last year on Proposition 4, which requires approval of two-thirds of the Texas House and Senate to establish an income tax.

Under the old setup, Texas voters had to approve an income tax before legislators could vote to create one. Unlike now, a supermajority of the Legislature was not needed.

So, yeah, it’s tougher than ever to pass a state income tax, but to say that income taxes are banned permanently is pure poppycock.

Paint the lane lines

John Mitro calls himself the “Addison Watchdog.” (Welcome to the club, J.M.) We share a similar pet peeve. He complains about the lack of lane lines painted on area roadways throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.

“White street lane lines have almost entirely vanished,” he says.

I agree. My peeve is that this makes it especially difficult to drive at night in the rain.

I talked to officials in Dallas and his town of Addison. I also checked with the Texas Department of Transportation, which is responsible for state roads. Here’s what I learned: These officials want to know specific locations in need of repainting.

Suggestion: Call your city streets department. You can back it up with a note to your city council member asking for help.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? But squeaky wheels also ought to know which lane they’re supposed to be in.

What happens when driverless vehicles hit the road? Auto-cars need lane markings to stay on the straight and narrow.

Dumbest move

The Watchdog believes the dumbest thing the government did in 2020 (and there was a lot of competition) was sending out debit cards loaded with $1,200 in stimulus money.

Most people got their stimulus through direct deposit or by a government check. Nobody announced ahead of time that debit cards would be going out, so recipients weren’t prepared. The cards looked like scams. Some people threw them away, realizing too late what was going on.

If this describes you, call 800-240-8100 or

No A-F grades

The Watchdog is thrilled that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced that schools and school districts will not receive A through F accountability grades this year based on STAAR testing. Yes, the tests will still go on despite school disruptions due to coronavirus.

I reported on this in my story “A through F grading system for Texas public schools is one more way to stigmatize poor neighborhoods.” Twelve days after the story appeared, nearly half the lawmakers in the Texas House called on state education leaders to cancel this school year’s tests and also the school grading system.

Students will still have to suffer through these tests in this wacky school year. I reported on that, too, in “Here’s a look at modern school life through the eyes of two students.”

Note that “remote learners” won’t take the test because no one is allowed to complete it at home. Teachers won’t be evaluated on test results, either.

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Gift surprise

Finally, we have a continuing conversation in this space about ways to get hold of a company chief executive officer when the company does you harm. Not sure if the following is actually true, but it’s such a good story that maybe it doesn’t matter.

As Richard Jenkins tells it, “Stanley Marcus once wrote that in dire straits his method was to send a wrapped gift to the CEO or target on the theory that an underling would never dare to open the box. Inside would be a token gift and a complaint letter.”

COMING: Next column, I’m going to present the 2020 Watchdog of the Year Award. Can’t wait to show you who it is.

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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the top prize for column writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. The contest judge called his winning entries “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”

Read his winning columns:

* Helping the widow of Officer J.D. Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, get buried beside her late husband

* Helping a waitress who was harmed by an unscrupulous used car dealer

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Texas Car Insurance Laws | Bankrate

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Car insurance laws are an important thing to take into consideration when deciding how much auto insurance you need to carry. Further, car insurance laws can be complicated and, sometimes, hard to decipher – which can be daunting given that drivers who fail to follow the law can face stiff […]

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