House Panel Voting

On Product Bill BeginsThe House Energy and Commerce Committee began voting Tuesday on amendments in an attempt to create a federal product liability bill.

If the committee produces a bill, it will be the first time that product liability legislation has cleared a House committee.

The committee acted to turn down two amendments by Rep. Henry Waxman D- Calif., who is carrying the banner for consumer groups and trial lawyers. Rep. Waxman insisted that the legislation will allow manufacturers to pursue more stringent curtailment of consumer rights in state legislatures, but it will not allow consumers more than four theories of liability under which victims could sue to recover damages when they are injured by products they use.

The committee voted down 29-12 an attempt by Rep. Waxman to create causes of action when a manufacturer is engaged in intentional wrongdoing, in ultra- hazardous activity, in fraudulent or negligent activity or has made an innocent misrepresentation if permitted under state law.

The committee voted 30-12 to turn down a Waxman amendment that would have stated that the standards of liability apply even if the manufacturer exercised all possible care in the manufacture of his product.

NJ Homeowners Told:

Shop Around for Cover

TRENTON, N.J. - Insurance Commissioner Kenneth Merin said Monday that residents can save several hundred dollars by shopping around for homeowners insurance.

A survey conducted by the department revealed differences in premiums of almost $650, said Mr. Merin.

He cautioned, however, that price shouldn't be the only factor when homeowners shop for policies. Other factors to be considered include service, handling of claims, professionalism, the company's financial condition and the agent's reputation, he said.

Copies of the survey will soon arrive in local libraries, the commissioner said.

Fla. Insurance Chief

May Seek Senate Seat

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter is expected to seek the Senate seat vacated by U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles, reports say.

I'm trying to test what support would evolve to Bill Gunter, Mr. Gunter said, adding several party leaders have encouraged him to run. I've not tried to play games. I do have a strong interest in it.

Mr. Gunter - a member of the elected state Cabinet since 1976 - ran for the U.S. Senate unsuccessfully in 1974 and 1980. He was considered a front- runner in the 1986 governor's race but dropped out for family reasons.

If Mr. Gunter resigns to seek the Senate seat, an election to replace him will probably be called for November. Among those Democrats being discussed as possible contenders are: Sen. Ken Jenne, D-Hollywood; former Rep. Barry Kutun of Miami; Rep. Fred Lippman, D-Hollywood; Rep. Ron Silver, D-North Miami Beach; and Sen. George Stuart, D-Orlando.