Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Vote expected soon on bill to delay flood insurance rate hikes
Jan. 7, 2014 6:14 PM
WASHINGTON — – Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said Tuesday he expects the Senate to take up legislation to delay increases in flood insurance premiums by next week at the latest.
Menendez and others declined to confirm they have the votes needed for passage, but they said the bill is gaining support. It had 28 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors on Tuesday.
“None of us is saying that we’ll get a unanimous vote, but we’re pretty confident we’ll get a strong vote,” Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana said at a press conference Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, lead sponsor of the measure with Menendez, said, “We have the momentum going.”
Democratic and Republican lawmakers said they’ve received hundreds of complaints from policyholders whose rates have increased since Oct. 1.
The rate increases were created under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. They were intended to help make the government’s flood insurance program financially solvent by bringing rates in line with true risks.
The law imposes 25 percent rate hikes on some but not all properties that have received premium subsidies through the National Flood Insurance Program. The program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has traditionally charged premiums at about 40-45 percent of their full cost, with taxpayers subsidizing the rest.
George Kasimos of Toms River, who is heading up a grassroots group — Stop FEMA Now — to stop the rate hikes, joined Menendez at Tuesday’s news conference.
Kasimos said flood insurance rates on his home, which is a mile inland, are expected to jump from about $1,000 a year to $8,000 a year. But that’s nothing compared to the rate hikes others are experiencing, he said.
“FEMA will have done more damage than Superstorm Sandy if we do not fix this problem,” he said.
Menendez said his bill seeks to delay hikes affecting primary homeowners and small businesses. He said increased rates on vacation homes would not be changed.
“We think we’ve hit the sweet spot here on trying to get this right,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey joined his colleagues at the news conference. He spoke briefly, saying he supports the bill.