DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE: Interim Commissioner Appointed
At the urging of state lawmakers, embattled Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush announced yesterday that Clark Kelso, a professor at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law, will preside as interim insurance commissioner until a replacement is appointed, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kelso begins work today as chief deputy and will become acting insurance commissioner after Quackenbush formally steps down next Monday. Michael Kelley, the current chief deputy, also has decided to leave the department. Although Quackenbush appointed Kelso, insiders report that Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) played a key role in the decision. The move gives Gov. Gray Davis (D) additional time to select Quackenbush's replacement. Davis, who has been under pressure to announce a new insurance commissioner, is expected to take as long as two months to make the appointment. Rumored candidates for the position include state Sen. Patrick Johnston (D-Stockton) and Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing Maria Contreras-Sweet. Kelso said he is not in the running for the permanent post. Hoping to put the department "back on its feet," Kelso said his primary goal is to "restore public trust in the agency and to relieve the 'near state of paralysis' that has engulfed it" since the political corruption scandal erupted in March. Kelso said, "California consumers expect the department to be an active and effective watchdog over the insurance industry. I intend to see to it that the department fulfills that expectation" (Ellis, 7/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.