Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dwight Dudley wants U.S. Senate to delay flood insurance increases

Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Dwight Dudley
  • Dwight Dudley
Next month, new flood insurance increases are scheduled to kick in around the country, and no place will be impacted more by the dramatic escalation in rates than Pinellas County. That's what led state Rep. Dwight Dudley (D-St.Peterburg) to write to Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio last week imploring them to support an amendment to the legislation that would put a one-year moratorium on the increases.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed last year by Congress with strong bipartisan support. The act reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was $118 billion in debt. The NFIP reauthorization implements rate hikes up to 25 percent a year on non-primary residences, businesses and homes that have flooded multiple times.

"We're trying to come out of a recession and we're going to raise people's flood insurance by 4, 5, 600 percent," Dudley told CL on Monday. "That's going to have a devastating affect on our economy, through the state, particularly in Pinellas County, where we have the largest number of flood insured properties in the country, so this is pretty big."

A similarly themed letter was sent by the Louisiana congressional delegation to congressional leaders on Monday, imploring them to stop the increases from kicking in next month.

The amendment that Dudley supports would bar any 2014 funds from being used by FEMA to implement Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which ends grandfathered rates for people who — though no fault of their own — find themselves below "base flood elevation."

Among the legislators signing on to the amendment is Los Angeles-based Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, one of the sponsors of the original bill. Waters now says she had no idea that the Biggert-Waters Act would raise rates so dramatically.

"As one of the primary authors of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and a longtime advocate for the people of southern Louisiana, I can state that it was never the intent of Congress to impose the types of punitive and unaffordable flood insurance premiums that residents of southern Louisiana are currently facing," Waters said earlier this summer. "I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to solve this problem."

The Biggert-Waters amendment was originally folded into the Restore Act, which transferred 80 percent of clean water fines from the 2010 BP oil spill to Florida and the four other Gulf States — something that was strongly supported by most of the Florida Congressional delegation.

Rep. Dudley said the increases need to be spread out over a much larger amount of time than what Biggert-Waters is calling for to prevent such a radical shock to homeowners.

"We need to put a moratorium on the enactment of it," he said of the current Oct.1 startup date. He also deflected criticism that this bill will only affect homeowners in flood zones. "It's going to have a devastating affect on our economy, and that's going to affect all of us, so we need to put the brakes on this Bigger-Walters implementation."

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