Louisiana will likely become the second state to join a lawsuit filed in federal court in Mississippi challenging the flood insurance premium rate hikes that went into effect Oct. 1.
Florida announced Friday that it is joining the lawsuit.
A spokesman for the Louisiana Insurance Department has confirmed comments made last week by Commissioner Tom Donelon that Louisiana plans to become more active in nationwide efforts to get the rate hikes delayed for perhaps two years, until an affordability study that will lay out the impact of the new rates is completed.
In earlier comments, Donelon said that, "We are going to file suit." He added that the state has retained lawyers who worked for GNO, (Greater New Orleans), a regional development organization, to determine the best path toward contesting the rates, which represent exponential increases in premiums in some cases.
"The question now being decided by the lawyers we have hired is whether we file in the pending Mississippi action or a separate action in Louisiana," Donelon.
Other sources familiar with the debate indicate that Donelon and the Louisiana attorney general, Buddy Caldwell, are leaning to filing an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit filed Sept. 26 by Mike Chaney, the Mississippi insurance commissioner, in federal court in Gulfport. A hearing on that lawsuit is scheduled for Oct. 28.
An amended complaint was filed Oct. 7. It said the purpose of the bill, the Biggert-Waters Act, was to make the National Flood Insurance Program solvent. It was enacted in July 2012.
“What the legislation significantly did not address is the effects of the changes on policyholders and the affordability of flood insurance policies for those that truly cannot afford the increases,” the complaint said. The rate increases went into effect Oct. 1.
The complaint says that affordability and other studies were mandated under the law.
But, the complaint says, the rate hikes were implemented even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency “plainly lacked and continues to lack the necessary information to avoid arbitrary and capricious decision-making.”
The complaint acknowledges that there are efforts underway in Congress to delay or roll back the rate hikes, but Congress “did not act in time to avoid” the substantial rate increases imposed through the law that went into effect Oct. 1.
However, the complaint added, the law “is perceived as an oncoming economic disaster to Mississippi citizens and other persons having homes or businesses located in a flood zone.”
The suit says that the law phases out “NFIP premium subsidies for owners of homes, repetitive loss properties and others who have been shielded from higher premiums.”
Moreover, the law also requires new flood maps, “some of which mean properties that were never required to have flood insurance now have to have it,” the complaint said.
“The changes are causing sizable increases in renewal premiums for some property owners and requiring others to purchase flood insurance for the first time,” the complaint said.
In general, the complaint said, the Oct. 1 implementation of the rate hikes are having a “devastating economic impact on the citizens of Mississippi, particularly those region which are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.”