Attempts to stall increases in federal flood-insurance premiums died in the House and were frozen in the Senate last week, making it virtually certain nothing will happen on the issue until early next year, press reports made clear.
An attempt on Thursday, Dec. 12, to push a standalone bill through the House of Representatives "ran aground without reaching the floor when key Democrats balked," the McClatchy News Service said. Meanwhile, a bid to have the Senate consider the measure was blocked when Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., objected to a request by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to bring legislation to the floor by unanimous consent, Houma Today, a Louisiana newspaper, said.
The Senate remains in session this week but isn't expected to discuss the bill again. As for the House, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said the measure he had pushed won't come to a vote before Christmas as he hoped, but he declared the issue "remains one of my top priorities and I will continue to work with both sides of the aisle to make sure we help those impacted."
The fight concerns the Biggert-Waters Act, legislation passed last year that reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and also attempted to put the loss-ridden, loophole-ridden program on sounder financial footing. The bill passed overwhelmingly, but even the legislators who gave Biggert-Waters its name started to protest the measure when it became clear that homeowners in flood-prone areas could see their flood insurance rates skyrocket as a result of the new legislation. Rate hikes too effect for certain properties last Oct. 1, while they won't go into effect for other types of homes until Oct. 1, 2014. Some critics have said the act would make it practically impossible to buy or sell a home in certain flood zones.
Legislation introduced in both chambers sought to delay most flood insurance increases for four years; compel the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete an affordability study mandated by Biggert-Waters; address issues found within the study; and allow Congress time to review those findings and revisions.
It's no coincidence that Louisiana's Congressional delegation has been among the most active in this effort, given how much of the state lies in flood zones. Florida is similarly affected; the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes that about 40% of all homes in the flood insurance program are in Florida; about 30,000 policies are in Sarasota and Manatee counties alone.