Bipartisan Attempt to Undo 1½-Year-Old Bipartisan Flood Insurance Law

Friday, January 31, 2014
(photo: AccuWeather)

If only Democrats and Republicans could be more bipartisan, it’s been lamented numerous times during recent do-little congressional sessions. Well, sometimes bipartisanship produces significant legislative achievements, and sometimes it can undo those very same achievements.


Two years ago, lawmakers from the two parties put aside their differences to adopt a major flood insurance law, the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act (pdf).


Liberals and conservatives both loved the plan, for different reasons.


Biggert-Waters was intended to reform the nation’s flood insurance program, which was facing bankruptcy, by ending federal subsidies for insuring buildings in flood-prone areas along the coasts.


The financial risk of insuring flood-prone properties was shifted from taxpayers to the private market, under the law.


Republicans embraced the law because it would curb government spending for flood costs. Democrats liked the bill because, they said, the reforms would reveal just how much climate change is impacting flood-prone areas.


But a year and a half after Biggert-Waters was approved, many Democrats and Republicans want to delay, block or repeal many of its key provisions.


Why? Money.


Specifically, the homeowners who are now paying higher costs are doing so to insure properties that are in areas likely to flood. Some Americans have seen their insurance bills double and triple, and some have experienced even higher jumps.


As reported by Coral Davenport of The New York Times, Diane Mazzuca of Beach Haven West, New Jersey, saw her flood insurance go from $595 annually (on a $90,000 home) to $4,492.


So now multiple plans are being introduced to undo Biggert-Waters.


One, by the law’s cosponsor, Representative Maxine Waters (D-California), would essentially gut it. She already has more than 180 co-sponsors from both parties.


In the Senate, a bipartisan bill would delay most insurance rate increases for four years.


Not everyone wants to do away with Biggert-Waters. Budget watchdogs, insurance groups and environmentalists say it would be a mistake to delay its provisions because that would result in bankrupting the flood insurance program altogether and leave coastal property owners even more vulnerable to future damages and costs.


The Obama administration also opposes efforts to roll back the law, but has not threatened a veto.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Popular Flood Insurance Law Is Target of Both Political Parties (by Coral Davenport, New York Times)

Senate May Delay Flood Insurance Rate Hike (by Andrew Taylor, Associated Press)

Homeowners Saddled with Extra Flood Insurance because FEMA Uses Outdated Maps(by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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