Sunday, January 19, 2014

Federal Flood Law Murky Waters for State Politicians

SUNBURY — SUNBURY — Although higher flood-insurance premiums in the Biggert-Waters Act are a result of federal law, a state legislator says he and his colleagues need to address the 2012 mandate’s effect on Pennsylvanians.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23, of Loyalsock Township, will be among members of the Environmental Resources and Energy, and Banking and Insurance committees to attend an information session on flood insurance in Harrisburg on Jan. 28.

“Some areas of the state have not been impacted by this yet, so part of it is information and making people aware of what’s going on,” he said. “A lot of the factors that brought this to a head have coalesced in this area.”

Biggert-Waters is a federal law and flood insurance is a federal program, so Yaw says it is not clear what, if anything, state lawmakers can do.

“We need to know what the nature of the problem is in order to take a look at it from a state’s perspective,” he said. “My goal is to look at the background and what caused (the problems).”

Higher flood-insurance premiums will have a major impact on Pennsylvanians, Yaw said.

“This is an issue that literally affects every county in the state,” he said.

While lawmakers debate permanent adjustments to Biggert-Waters, Congress last week took small steps toward delaying some of the premium hikes. The fix was in a provision attached to the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed Wednesday.

The practical effect of the Cassidy-Landrieu provision — named for Louisianians Mary Landrieu, a Democratic senator, and Bill Cassidy, a Republican representative, who sponsored the legislation — is relatively limited and can be added to the spending bill only because it does not increase the budget deficit.

It effectively blocks through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare for scheduled premium increases on people whose homes are not currently considered to be in a flood zone but are deemed to be flood prone under new FEMA maps.

Those map-related premium increases weren’t scheduled to take effect until October anyway; the provision would likely mean a modest additional delay.

The broader bill that will be debated later this month in the Senate would effectively delay the 2012 reforms for four years, a step that critics say guts the intent of the law because it expires in 2017.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, last week advocated for the passage of the broader bill.

In the past few years, Northeastern Pennsylvania has encountered severe flooding that has battered homes and strained the finances of families, Casey said.

“We can’t let these same homeowners who have dealt with the challenges of severe flooding be hit with massing rate hikes on their flood insurance bills,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, like Yaw, is a resident of Lycoming County.

Marino’s office on Friday released a statement on how the Cassidy-Landrieu provision will affect homeowners.

“Language included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act delayed only the phasing out of grandfathered rates,” the statement read. “This language offers a temporary delay only to policyholders who were participating in (National Flood Insurance Program) before Biggert-Waters was implemented and whose premiums rates were grandfathered as a result of remapping.

“Properties that allow their (National Flood Insurance Program) policies to lapse or are sold to new owners would no longer be subject to Section 207 and would see an immediate increase in flood insurance premium rates.

“Unfortunately, this new provision does not help people who bought or sold homes after July 2012, when Biggert-Waters went into effect, nor does it help policyholders whose properties or businesses are classified as ’severe repetitive loss properties.’”

Landrieu told the New Orleans Time-Picayune that the measure is definitely not a permanent fix.

“We still have work to do,” she said.

1 comment:

  1. As for what you can do Senator Yaw, you can join many other senators that have already agreed to vote yes on bill S.1846 on the 27th of this month. That is a start. After that you have to work to get this passed through congress and then there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, so don't think that because this is a federal law there is nothing you can do about it. You need to be committed to your constituents to work hard to turn this thing around and we at Stop FEMA Now will be behind you. We have thousands of members and lots of them from your state. Please do what is needed to help Pannsylvanians as well as millions of others all over the country.