A group of Wisconsin legislators came one step closer yesterday to rolling back changes to the state’s financial responsibility laws that went into effect last year.

The state Assembly committee on insurance voted 10-3 on Thursday to send a measure — which would cut the minimum levels of financial protection that car insurance policies must contain back to 2009 levels — on its way to a vote by the full Assembly.

Proponents of the bill say that alterations made to the Wisconsin auto insurance law by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2009 adversely affected rates for the state’s consumers.

Although the bill would keep the provision that requires all drivers in the state to carry coverage, the required protection provided by that coverage would be cut nearly in half.

Currently, policies issued in the state must include protection for up to $50,000 for bodily injuries sustained by one person, $100,000 for two or more, and $15,000 for property damage liability coverage. This is commonly denoted as 50/100/15.

Drivers are also required to carry uninsured motorist coverage.

Although many authorities in the industry recommend that motorists carry these levels of protection, Wisconsin is in the top tier for state-set minimum amounts of coverage. Alaska and Maine are the only two other states require policies to provide 50/100 bodily injury liability.

Graph showing diff. bodily injury liability limits and state counts

Click graph to enlarge

The majority — 27 states — require 25/50.

If the bill ends up signed into law, Wisconsin would rejoin the majority and have minimums of 25/50/10.

The extent to which premiums have been affected by the rise in minimum levels is a matter of much debate.

Rep. John Nygren, who is one of the bill’s authors, has stated that rates shot up 33 percent on average since the changes took effect. But a group called Citizen Action of Wisconsin has released a report saying that insurers in the state increased premiums by less than 1 percent.

No statistics on possible price increases have been released by the state’s commissioner of insurance.