Tweak national flood insurance law before Florida sinks

February 4, 2014 

Property owners shouldn't be subjected to exorbitant flood insurance premium increases because a so-called political "reform" measure came into law in 2012 -- without the consequences being fully understood. The U.S. Senate's bipartisan passage of a delay in those insurance hikes last week should be approved in the House as well.

Both Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and Kathy Castor, D-Tampa (whose district includes portions of Manatee County), want House Speaker John Boehner to put the measure up for a vote, though he's indicated otherwise. Their pressure should continue. That's a reasonable response to flawed law that was enacted in a knee-jerk reaction to an overreaction to a dismal budget situation.

The National Flood Insurance Program got hit with a $24 billion debt due to Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, but that's a poor excuse to bury Floridians and others Americans with a mountain of property insurance bills. Some homeowners are getting hammered with thousands and thousands of dollars in flood insurance premium increases -- some clobbered with 400 percent hikes.

The Senate bill requires a four-year delay in many of the new rates that went into effect of Oct. 1 under the Biggert-Waters law so the Federal Emergency Management Agency can conduct an affordabilty study -- as required under the act but not funded. Plus, the federal government's new flood mapping results are questionable and other factors are under fire as to how the law determines whether or not Biggert-Waters achieves its goal of determining actuarial sound rates.

Those flood maps and the entire law should be put under scrutiny. That especially includes older and grandfathered homes in suddenly new flood zones, scaring off investors and other buyers. This nation needs to re-examine how to deal with diasters -- from floods and fires to earthquakes and tornados -- and not address one piecemeal.

The Senate's 67-32 vote on the Biggert-Waters four-deal delay demonstrates the bipartisan nature of this important national measure, The U.S. House -- led by Buchanan and Castor -- should follow suit.

But that won't solve the larger issue. This country must come to grips with the realiization that we need a national catastrophic disaster program.

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