The state of Florida plans to file a brief in support of a lawsuit filed Sept. 26 by the Mississippi Insurance Department seeking an injunction that would delay flood insurance rate hikes that went into effect Oct. 1.
A hearing on the lawsuit in federal court in Gulfport, Miss. is scheduled for Oct. 28, according to Mike Chaney, Mississippi insurance commissioner.
At the same time, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) announced Monday that 24 members of the Senate were sending a letter to the Senate leadership calling for immediate relief for flood insurance policyholders affected by Biggert-Waters, the legislation that led to the rate hikes.
The senators ask that a temporary delay for certain rate increases “be included in any viable legislative vehicle” while they continue to work on a more comprehensive solution.
The federal government is shut down because funds to run it ran out Sept. 30. There have been continuing efforts to include such a provision in legislation extending the debt limit and refunding the government.
However, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate leadership, has told representatives of citizens group that have organized to persuade Congress to delay the increases that is more likely that action on such provisions will be taken up by Congress only after the debt and shutdown crisis is resolved.
In announcing plans to file an amicus brief Thursday, Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott lambasted President Obama, saying the president “is failing to save Florida families from huge flood insurance rate hikes and that is why we are going to support Mississippi in their lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This unfair rate hike could devastate Florida’s real estate market and homeowners,” Scott said. Ultimately, the buck stops with the president and that’s why we continue to ask him to get his agency – FEMA – to undo this unfair insurance rate hike on Florida families.”
However, the Obama administration was not consulted before the provision mandating phasing in of actuarial rates for flood insurance was voted on in the Senate in June 2012, according to FEMA officials.
Imposition of actuarial rates was the price demanded by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for allowing legislation reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program for five years to be added to legislation reauthorizing transportation programs.
Support of all senators was required to add the NFIP reauthorization title, known as the Biggert-Waters Act, to the legislation.
Moreover, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in congressional testimony last month that the administration has determined that it has no authority to delay the rate hikes, as Scott is demanding.
Fugate is formerly head of the Florida Emergency Management Agency.
Chaney said Monday that South Carolina is considering joining the lawsuit, as is Louisiana.
“I welcome the support of Governor Scott, Attorney General Bondi and the State of Florida, and am very pleased that they recognize the significance of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Chaney said.
Chaney said the rate hikes proposed under the Biggert-Waters Act “are excessive and will affect millions of homeowners not only in Mississippi and Florida, but all across the nation. Our states are united in attempting to bring reason and common sense to the NFIP reforms.”