A state consumer insurance advocate's office could be shuttered in Texas just as it is making progress on blocking massive rate hike hammering homeowners across the state who are insured through State Farm, if a Republican state senator gets his way.


A bill filed Thursday by Sen. Kelly Hancock (pictured) of north Texas would, according to The Dallas Morning News, shut down the Office of Public Insurance Counsel, a key consumer advocate in the state's insurance rulemaking process.

The bill comes immediately after the insurance counsel made strides toward blocking a 20 percent rate increase for homeowner's insurance implemented by State Farm late last year. A hearing on the matter before an administrative law judge was set for March 4, according to an agency release issued Thursday (PDF).

Hancock reportedly said his bill would "continue to protect consumers and reduce wasteful spending."

 “Why would lawmakers even consider eliminating the one thing that gives Texas policyholders a fighting chance against Big Insurance?” Alex Winslow of consumer advocacy group Texas Watch said in an advisory. “This state office with a handful of employees and a tiny budget shouldn't be threatened with abolishment simply for doing its job."

A judge ruled in 2011 that State Farm owes Texans almost $350 million due to excessive fees charged to consumers. An ongoing appeal could result in reimbursements to customers who the agency believes were overcharged.