U.S. House passes Biggert-Waters delayJun 10th, 2013 | By Seth Babin | Category: top story
The United States House of Representatives voted
last Wednesday in favor of an amendment to delay by one year increases to flood insurance premiums on “grandfathered” properties caused by the Biggert-Waters Act.
Rep. Dr. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, introduced the amendment, which passed by a vote of 281-146 with the support of the entire Louisiana delegation.
“We’ve worked hard the last 48 hours, really worked hard, to bring it all together,” Cassidy said. “I think, in the end, as many Republicans came on board and as many Democrats came on in a bipartisan way. That hard work really paid off.”
Leaders have also banded together across party lines to fight the increases at the state and local level. Last Friday, State Representative Chris Leopold introduced a bi-partisan resolution petitioning Congress to act to either delay or repeal the potentially devastating premium increases.
“I’m proud of my colleagues in the legislature who passed this resolution and forwarded it to Congress,” said Leopold. “We are just part of a growing coastal coalition.” Numerous parish governments have passed similar resolutions urging their congressional representatives to action. These local leaders hailed the passage of the bill as a huge step in the fight against the massive in- creases in premiums under the National Flood Insurance Programs facing area property owners.
“Dr. Cassidy proved he’s the real leader on flood insurance with the passage of the Cassidy Amendment,” said Parish President Billy Nungesser. “I’m glad Dr. Cassidy took action and moved the ball forward on protecting Louisiana homeowners from NFIP rate hikes. The Cassidy Amendment is a real bi-partisan success.”
These massive increases arise from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which was intended to make the NFIP financially self-sustaining rather than reliant on taxpayer money to continue operating. Largely due to claims related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the NFIP has been operating at a loss of over $20 billion.
Senator Mary Landrieu praised the passage of the Cassidy Amendment, but was quick to point out that more work remains to truly address the issues posed by Biggert-Waters.
“That is a very positive step. Now, [the Cassidy Amendment] is only a one-year reprieve, which isn’t long enough,” Landrieu said. “But it is better than nothing, and we’re going to build on that.”
As part of that effort, Landrieu attempted Thursday to add an amendment to a federal farm bill that would have granted a three-year delay to the imposition of the Biggert-Waters increases. Her efforts failed, however, thanks to the opposition of some Republican senators led by Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
Landrieu did note that, since the failure of her amendment, she has made a “lot of progress” in convincing Toomey to no longer block voting on future NFIP reform amendments. Landrieu plans to try again by attaching the amendment to the Senate version of the Homeland Security appropriations bill.
“We do believe that we can fix, amend or modify to mitigate against some of these extraordinary increases in a smarter, more compassionate, fiscally smart way,” Landrieu said. “We just need time to figure that out.”
Measures to enact those reforms began Thursday when Senator David Vitter, along with Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., filed the Responsible Implementation of Flood Insurance Reform Act, a new bill which would not only delay the rate increases but also address other major criticisms of Biggert-Waters.
Chief among those criticisms is FEMA’s flood-map- ping procedures. Critics of FEMA’s process assert that the agency used outdated or incomplete maps of the flood protection system, especially in regards to improvements made at the local level. This oversight would cause properties inside protected areas to incur premiums as if they were outside the system. Vitter also secured a commitment from the Senate Banking Committee to hold a hearing with FEMA Director Craig Fugate on their handling of the NFIP.
“People who have been living by the rules in place at the time will be priced out of their homes, and that isn’t right,” said Vitter. “We’d be taking away their slice of the American dream. This is a critical issue – not just in Louisiana, but in communities across the country. I want the FEMA director to explain to Louisianians their awfully confusing flood map process and how they can afford to stay in the flood insurance program if premiums increase dramatically.”