From left: Eric Poole, Deena Reppen, Congressman Ted Yoho and Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson
On March 4, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3370) by a vote of 306 to 91. The bipartisan bill is the result of months of work to address the unintended consequences of the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (BW-12), which has caused flood insurance premiums across the nation to skyrocket.
Florida’s Congressional delegation voted in unanimous support for the bill, with Representatives Bilirakis, Buchanan, Diaz-Balart, Nugent and Ross recognized by Majority Leader Eric Cantor for their work in bringing amended legislation to the House floor.
FAC Staff met with the Florida offices of Representatives Hastings, Ross, Bilirakis, Rooney and Yoho prior to the floor vote, as well as staff to California Representative, and ranking minority member of the Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters. Since October 2013, FAC has made four trips to Washington, D.C. to advocate for Florida’s counties on the issue of flood insurance reform and unaffordable rate hikes, and held close to 70 individual meetings with House and Senate Congressional Offices. FAC also met with the White House and FEMA during a trip last month with county commissioners and staff.
The Senate passed a bill to delay the implementation of Biggert-Waters this past January (SB 1926). The House bill took an alternative route, opting not to create a delay in BW-12 but to restore grandfathered rates for primary homes, place limitations on premium increases and pay for those changes to BW-12 with annual surcharges. While not perfect legislation for Florida, the bill addresses some of the problems caused by BW-12 and goes a long way to meeting FAC’s policy objectives. Major components of the bill include:
- Restores grandfathered rates & limits annual rate increase to not less than 5% and no more than 15% (average) of current premium per year until market rates are met; sets a cap of 18% for annual premium increases on primary homes;
- FEMA is directed to “strive to minimize the number of policies with annual premiums that exceed one percent of the total coverage”;
- Eliminates home sale trigger for grandfathered policies (rates remain with property);
- Refunds excess premiums already paid;
- Offsets addressed through an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residences; $250 for secondary residence or businesses;
- Creates a Flood Insurance Advocate to assist policy holders;
- Homeowners who successfully appeal remapping recover costs of appeal;
- Provides $2.5M to FEMA to complete their affordability study within 18 months;
- Allows for high deductible insurance plans of $10K.
The House bill also picked up an amendment introduced by Senator Marco Rubio and included in the Senate bill. The amendment begins to address transparency in the setting of flood insurance rates, which was a priority component of FAC’s policy position paper, A Roadmap to Affordable Flood Insurance. The Senate has indicated it will accept the House bill.
FAC thanks the Congressional members and staff of Florida’s delegation for their commitment to undo the harmful effects of Biggert-Waters. FAC also thanks its county members for identifying this issue as a FAC priority and advocating on behalf of their communities, especially those who traveled to Washington, DC to hold meetings with members of Congress. Our appreciation is also extended to Van Scoyoc Associates’ Greg Burns, The Ferguson Group’s Val Gelnovatch and the staff of the National Association of Counties.
For more on Biggert-Waters, a summary of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act and FAC’s advocacy efforts, visit www.fl-counties.com/advocacy/federal.