North Carolina splits insurance commissioner’s job from state fire marshal’s responsibilities

From the Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s elected insurance commissioner will no longer hold a second role as state fire marshal because of a new provision in the state budget that will take effect in January.

FILE – North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey talks to reporters, April 24, 2023, at the Albemarle Building in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina’s elected insurance commissioner will soon no longer hold the dual role as state fire marshal because a provision in the final state budget separates the jobs starting in January. Causey will have to appoint someone else to a three-year term as fire marshal. House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 the fire marshal’s post should be a fire professional position and not a political one. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum, file)

Commissioner Mike Causey said this week he is unhappy with the change, which he said was inserted into the budget by fellow Republicans without input from him, local fire marshals or firefighters, news outlets reported.

The budget will soon become law without Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s formal approval because he has said he wouldn’t sign it.

“I have yet to meet the first person outside of the General Assembly that favors an independent State Fire Marshal,” Causey said Monday, calling the lack of communication with lawmakers and absence of discussion “very disturbing.”

Under rules starting Jan. 1, Causey will have to appoint someone else to a three-year term as fire marshal and the choice will be subject to General Assembly confirmation. A fire marshal’s office within Causey’s department may act independently under the bill.

The state Senate sought the fire marshal change during budget negotiations, House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday.

“The state fire marshal should not be a political position,” Moore told reporters. “That should be a person who is a professional, who understands what’s involved in that process.”

Randy Brechbiel, a spokesperson for Senate leader Phil Berger, said late Tuesday in a written statement that the state was drastically different when the two positions were combined in the 1940s.

With the change, “the Insurance Commissioner can fully focus on insurance matters, and the Fire Marshal can dedicate their full attention to fire-related matters,” Brechbiel said.

Causey is in his second four-year term as insurance commissioner, a position that this fiscal year will pay $168,384. His salary will be unaffected by the change in responsibilities. The new fire marshal’s salary will be $135,000.