EDITORIAL: Flood insurance

By NEMS Daily Journal

House passes extension that would include wind provision
Bipartisan U.S. House passage of a five-year renewal and reform of the Federal Flood Insurance Program last week attracted a too-rare consensus of Mississippi’s four-member delegation, and we hope that means favorable Senate action before the latest temporary extension in effect expires Sept. 30.
The bill, H.R. 5114, captured 76 percent of the votes Thursday, including 85 Republicans, almost half the GOP membership.
The lone GOP House member from Mississippi, Gregg Harper, Pearl, voted for the bill with Democratic Reps. Travis Childers, Booneville; Gene Taylor, Bay St. Louis; and, Bennie Thompson, Bolton.
The vote was 329-90, with 13 abstentions.
The Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010 would increase the maximum available flood coverage for nonresidential properties to $670,000. It also would prohibit the “Write Your Own” insurance companies that contract with NFIP from excluding coverage of wind damage under their own policies solely because flooding also caused damage to the property.
Rep. Gene Taylor, a longtime advocate of expanding the NFIP to include wind coverage, offered the amendment to ensure its availability.
The House and Senate have been unable to reach agreement on long-term reauthorization because the Senate has preferred restricting the program to flood coverage only.
Some, but not all, insurance advocacy-lobbying organizations oppose adding the wind-damage element because they claim it will make coverage more expensive and harder for consumer to find. The measure also is opposed by the Obama administration.
The National Association of REALTORS, on the other hand, backs the reform. NAR has been actively seeking NFIP reform since 2008.
It is widely reported that legislators from Gulf states are pushing for wind inclusion. The vote suggests that most House legislators from storm-vulnerable Gulf states support the wind-damage inclusion.
Unless a long-term reauthorization passes, Congress will again have to consider another short-term extension before Sept. 30. Since September 2008, the House and Senate have not been able to agree on the NFIP and have approved a series of short-term extensions.
There have been eight extensions so far and twice the NFIP authority has been allowed to expire.
FEMA has been revising and updating flood insurance maps, including in Northeast Mississippi.
H.R. 5114 delays the implementation of new rate maps so homeowners in a neighborhood flood zone will not be immediately burdened with higher insurance costs.
We hope the Senate – or a conference committee – can come to terms with a longer extension, and finally pass reauthorization.