Policy: Law

House delays vote on flood insurance bill

By |
Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Senate,House of Representatives,PennAve,Law,Flood Insurance,Maxine Waters,Natural Disasters

The House has postponed until at least next week a vote on a flood insurance bill that would have halted rate hike increases for many homeowners in hazard zones.

GOP leaders announced the decision on Wednesday, and aides said later the delay was needed to make technical changes in the legislation, but the holdup appears to stem from Democratic opposition to the bill.

Republicans want to offer the bill under special House rules that limit debate, exclude amendments and require two-thirds support of all lawmakers for passage.

But Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee and the author of the 2012 bill, said she wants changes to the bill to ensure no homeowner is left with an unaffordable flood insurance tax hike.

"We continue to work in good faith with Republican leadership to address a number of technical and substantive issues related to the legislation, with the ultimate goal of correcting the unintended consequences of the [2012] Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This could not be done overnight,” Waters said.

The legislation has other detractors. It is unpopular with fiscal conservatives, tax watchdog groups and conservative organizations who say it rolls back reforms that were needed to shore up the bankrupt National Flood Insurance Program, which is $24 billion in debt.

The bill would have reinstated a policy of grandfathering in rates for properties in flood map zones that predate a 2012 flood insurance reform program and several big storms, including Superstorm Sandy.

The grandfathering clause would include not only current owners, but new owners if the property is sold. And it calls for reimbursing homeowners who have paid higher rates under the 2012 law.

The legislation is authored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from flood-battered states including New York, New Jersey and Louisiana, who say their constituents have been hit with astronomically high flood insurance bills because of the 2012 legislation.

The pending measure includes an annual $25 fee for homeowners and a $250 fee for businesses in flood-prone areas that sponsoring Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said would pay the cost of the legislation.

Critics say the money raised from assessments will not be sufficient to pay for flood damage from future storms if so many homeowners are paying outdated and artificially low insurance rates.

The D.C.-based watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense sent a letter to House lawmakers this week asking them to ditch the bill.

“The reforms enacted in 2012 were far from perfect, but there are responsible ways to address those problems in a way that is responsible to taxpayers while significantly helping taxpayers,” TCS Vice President Steve Ellis said.

View article comments Leave a comment

More from washingtonexaminer.com