LANSING, Mich. --- Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm signed an executive order creating a new state insurance consumer advocate position that will fight for affordable, reliable, and fair car and home insurance in Michigan.

The position of automobile and home insurance consumer advocate will be housed in the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR), the state agency formerly known as the Office of Financial and Insurance Services and renamed by the new executive order. The advocate will exercise his or her duties independently of the commissioner of OFIR. The commissioner's responsibilities to regulate the state's insurance industry will remain unchanged.

"Some of Michigan's citizens are paying the highest homeowners and auto insurance rates in the nation," Granholm said.  "The automobile and home insurance consumer advocate will work to protect the pocketbooks of our citizens and fight for fair and affordable rates for all insurance ratepayers in Michigan."

The insurance consumer advocate will have authority to:

- Conduct hearings and receive testimony from consumers; examine and investigate laws, regulations, and practices; receive expert advice; and survey best practices from around the country to assess the impact of automobile insurance and home insurance rates, rules and forms on consumers in Michigan.

- Submit to the governor an annual report on the advocate's findings and recommendations for administrative, legislative or other corrective actions that would positively affect the interests of automobile insurance and home insurance consumers.

- Appear, intervene and be heard before the commissioner as a party or otherwise on behalf of insurance consumers in any matters affecting automobile insurance and home insurance.

- Use an Internet website, a toll-free telephone number or other mechanisms for receiving consumer input.

- Educate consumers on how to protect themselves against predatory or illegal insurance practices.

- Coordinate advocacy and educational efforts with non-governmental consumer advocacy entities and other organizations.

An individual has not yet been named to the position, but an appointment will be forthcoming.