Senate to consider delays in flood insurance rate hikes

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 17, 2014 

— A bill that would delay flood insurance rate increases for many homeowners across the country is expected to be the first order of business when the Senate returns Jan. 27 from a one-week break.

Supporters say they’re confident there’s strong bipartisan support and enough votes to clear the 60-vote hurdle to consider the legislation and then pass it by the end of the week.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a supporter, said on the Senate floor earlier in the week that delay backers in the Senate had worked on the issue with colleagues in the House of Representatives.

A 2012 law phased out some federal subsidies for flood insurance, resulting in the current increases facing many homeowners.

In the House, leaders could choose between legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and another sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La. In one indication of House support for delaying a premium increase, lawmakers voted 281-145 on an earlier amendment to postpone them.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., delays the rate increases on some types of properties until the Federal Emergency Management Agency can complete an affordability study and certify that it properly developed new flood maps.

The Senate bill would delay increases on homes that are primary residences and businesses that were built to code and later remapped in a higher-risk area.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that the Senate flood insurance legislation would reduce revenues to the Treasury by $2.1 billion over 10 years. The National Flood Insurance Program has a $24 billion deficit. Critics say the delays in premium hikes would speed its move toward insolvency.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has opposed the delays, but his office could not be reached for comment on Friday. In July, Shelby said that delaying the beginning of risk-based premiums would mean that people in high-risk areas would continue to be subsidized and the program would go further into debt.

Email: rschoof@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @reneeschoof

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