Another bill to address the unanticipated effects on insurance premiums as a result of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (BW-12) was introduced on October 29, 2013.

Sponsored by Representatives Michael Grimm (R-NY), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Pete Olson (R-TX) in the House of Representatives and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate, the Homeowners Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 3370/S. 1610) would delay flood insurance rate increases for certain properties for up to four years.

The bill proposes to delay rate increases until two years after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completes an affordability study on the BW-12 changes and make suggestions to address any identified affordability issues for Congressional consideration.  Of note to local governments is the elimination of a 50% cap on state and local contributions to levee construction and reconstruction, which may be an opportunity to help mitigate flood events and lower flood insurance rates. The bill also establishes a Flood Insurance Rate Map Advocate within FEMA to respond to current and prospective policyholder questions about the flood mapping process, and allows FEMA to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination. 

The House bill currently has 95 co-sponsors, including 14 members of the Florida delegation, while the Senate bill has 18 co-sponsors, including Senator Nelson. While a significant bipartisan step in a positive direction, the bill leaves second homeowners, commercial properties, severe repetitive loss properties or those substantially damaged subject to the significant rate increases now in effect – more than 56,000 properties in Florida alone. A House Financial Services Committee hearing in mid-November is likely to discuss flood insurance and H.R. 3370, but otherwise no formal Congressional activity is planned.

Florida’s delegation deserves recognition for their active work on multiple BW-12 reform bills. FAC continues to speak with member offices, including most recently discussions with the offices of Representatives Dennis Ross, Bill Posey, Patrick Murphy, and Tom Rooney this week.  Congressman Ross is a member of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the National Flood Insurance Program.  FAC also this week joined a coalition of more than 190 organizations in a letter to the President calling for an administrative delay of premium rate increases.  

Addressing the effects of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act on Florida’s communities was adopted as a federal advocacy priority for FAC this past September.  Passed in October 2012, BW-12 was designed to raise insurance rates to reflect true flood risk and stabilize the National Flood Insurance Program, which is experiencing a $24 billion shortfall.  Portions of the law went into effect this past January and October and are already having significant impacts on Floridians.  Florida’s property owners hold 37 percent – or 2 million - of the nation’s flood insurance policies. For more on the Biggert-Waters provisions, visit http://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance-reform-act-2012

To read more on FAC and Congressional actions, visit http://www.fl-counties.com/advocacy/federal.

(Information provided by Van Scoyoc Associates)