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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 02.07.14
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL

Flooding oceans deep and stormy. And expensive.

The waters are definitely rising -- in the 20th century the sea level rose about 20 centimeters or eight inches. Scientists say that this rise is a major factor in the damage done by storms like Katrina, Irene, Isaac, and Sandy.

The damage these storms did to homes and businesses is supposed to be covered by the flood insurance program run by FEMA. There is a problem -- the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is $24 billion in debt because the premiums do not cover the pay-outs. So, in 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Insurance Reform Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert, an Illinois Republican, and Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat. A bipartisan effort -- Hooray!

The legislation requires FEMA to:

    (1) raise the NFIP rates to reflect true flood risk

    (2) make the program more financially stable.

Stable means making the policy holders pay the full cost of the insurance and limiting or eliminating the subsidy. To put the point on it, the aim of the legislation was to shift the financial risk of insuring flood-prone properties from taxpayers to the private market. Homeowners, rather than taxpayers, would shoulder the true cost of building in flood zones.

This was the do-nothing Congress in 2012, which actually did something that makes sense -- especially to those of us living on high ground. Now, a year and a half later, there is now an enthusiastic bipartisan effort to gut the legislation.

The US Senate is soon expected to approve a measure that would block, repeal, or delay many of the key provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.

Who do you think is leading the charge in the house to gut this bill -- wait for it -- Rep. Maxine Waters!

So what happened?

People who live in flood areas got higher insurance bill and, of course complained to Congress. Rep. Waters -- ya got to love the irony here -- plunged right in, joined by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, and a bipartisan host of others.

The bill, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, S. 1926, does not say how this is all going to be paid for or how the $24 billion will be paid off but it does say we should study the matter. The White House released a statement criticizing the bill, which passed the Senate 67 to 32.

So call your Congressional representatives, this is war -- flatlanders against hillbillies.

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