Floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac rose to the rooftops in Braithwaite in September 2012. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 1:02 PM
After months of anxiety, relief for home and business owners from what would have been in tens of thousands of cases unaffordable rate hikes for flood insurance is but a promised President Obama signature away from becoming a reality.
The U.S. Senate and House overwhelmingly approved changes to the National Flood Insurance Program that was originally put forth by the Biggert-Waters bill.
The fix featured bipartisan support, with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La.-Sixth District, playing lead roles in making the case in their respective chambers for the economic burden Biggert-Waters would have placed on property owners who were required to carry flood insurance. The two are the front-runners for Landrieu’s seat this fall.
Both passionately debunked the notion that flood insurance in coastal regions like Louisiana covered palatial beachfront property that were second homes for the rich and the famous. Some dimwits who had never stepped foot outside Washington, D.C.’s beltway argued that these property owners should shoulder the premium increases, some as high as $20,000 annually. In doing so, these so-called experts ignored the financial ruin such rate hikes would have wrought on local economies.
‘‘This legislation has long-term reforms that help our families and enjoys widespread, bipartisan support,’’ said Cassidy, who was instrumental in writing the House’s amendment to the overhaul bill. ‘‘It is supported by the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance, over 200 state and national stakeholder groups and elected officials throughout the state. Louisiana needs these flood insurance reforms, and I urge the President to work with us to help this legislation become law. It’s the right thing to do for Louisiana.’’
Said Landrieu: ‘‘The passionate debate we had during the last two years — one that will continue — has shown that affordable flood insurance is about more than just actuarial numbers on a page. It is about protecting our unique culture, a treasured way of life and preserving the historic coastal communities that are the engine’s our of nation’s economy,”
The new legislation caps individual property rate hikes at 18 percent and directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to strive to keep flood insurance policies under 1 percent of a property’s total value, and report to Congress when it is unable to do so. It also requires that FEMA ensure that its flood maps are accurate and take into account flood barriers like levees.
The bill also grandfathers properties that were built to code to protect against ridiculous rate hikes and refunds policyholders who were charged higher rates after Biggert-Waters was approved. It also permanently removes the sales trigger portion of Biggert-Waters which would have made the sale of a home that required flood insurance virtually impossible.
In this case, all’s well that ends well, and Louisiana’s congressional delegation can take a bow for leading and winning this vital crusade.