Friday, February 28, 2014

More optimism that Congress will stop large flood insurance increases

on February 28, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Here's a reason for those worried about higher flood insurance premiums to be optimistic.
Top Democrats and Republicans negotiating a bill designed to protect homeowners from big increases in premiums are optimistic they'll have a strong bill ready for House approval - most likely on Wednesday.

"We're real close," said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, who says he's been working to pick up GOP support. Still, with many of Scalise's fellow conservative Republicans reluctant to block implementation of the 2012 Biggert-Waters law, which was designed to make the program solvent, it's going to take a lot of Democratic votes to pass legislation.
And Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who co-authored author Biggert-Waters but says some of the resulting rate increases are both unanticipated and unaffordable, is also optimistic a deal is near.

"We are taking this matter very seriously, and we are working in good faith to ensure this bill provides a comprehensive solution that will make flood insurance affordable for the hundreds of thousands of families who have been suffering," Waters said. "I am hopeful that we can reach agreement on this legislation by next week."

One of the intriguing elements of the negotiations over the issue of escalating flood insurance premiums -- and efforts to keep the program affordable -- is that two of the leading advocates for a legislative fix also happen to be running against each other in the 2014 Louisiana Senate race.

With agreement near on a new House bill, both Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., were expressing optimism about the bill emerging from House negotiations.

"By providing predictability and stability to Louisiana families and businesses, the legislation as amended will provide long term relief," Cassidy said.

Landrieu, who was instrumental in getting the Senate to pass a bill January 30 delaying most premium increases for four years, also said that the House bill has gotten stronger as she's worked with Democratic negotiators, Reps Maxine Waters of California and Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, to improve the original bill offered by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

"After nearly two years of hard work here in Congress and around the country to stop and overturn the most pernicious provisions of Biggert-Waters, we are very close in final negotiations with House Republican leadership to once again establish affordability as a critical and necessary element in our National Flood Insurance Program," Landrieu said. 

"Together, we added an individual annual property cap of no higher than 18 percent to guard against aggressive year-over-year rate hikes, and we are working to include language setting an affordability target that a flood insurance policy should be no more than one percent of a home's total coverage amount."

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