The Senate has established a path toward prompt action on legislation delaying most of the flood insurance rate increases.
The fact that the legislation delaying most of the rate increases could possibly be acted on by the end of the year comes as the National Council of Insurance Legislators virtually unanimously passed a resolution at its annual meeting over the weekend in Nashville, Tenn. urging some form of delay on the rate increases.
Also disclosed was the letter urging delay of rate hikes presented to President Obama at a meeting last Thursday with state insurance regulators by Jim Donelon, Louisiana insurance commissioner and current president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The issue is of vital insurance to a major segment of the property and casualty insurance industry.
In a letter last week to Congress, a group of Write-Your-Own companies said that before Congress decides to revise the rate increase programs required under the Bigger-Waters Act of 2012 it “must realize and acknowledge” that any changes will take no less than six months for WYO insurers to implement.
“We hope that any proposed legislative changes would be discussed with the NFIP and other stakeholders as they are being developed to avoid further unintended consequences,” the letter said.
According to industry lobbyists intimately involved in the National Flood Insurance Program, Senate staffers will be spending the current Thanksgiving recess “whittling down” proposed amendments to the National Defense Reauthorization Act, S. 1867. The bill is currently on the Senate floor, and is must-do legislation with strong bipartisan support.
The Senate briefly reconvened today and will hold a pro forma session Nov. 25 and will hold a pro forma session Tuesday.
However, votes will not resume until Nov. 28, and Senate staffers are spending that time to reduce the number of amendments to the NDAA to 30 or 40.
The lobbyist said that, “there is no guarantee” that the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, S. 1610, will be on the list cleared for floor action, but it has “broad bipartisan support.” If the flood bill, sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., clears various hurdles and passes the Senate through the NDAA in some form, it will go directly to conference and therefore bypass the need for action by the House Financial Services Committee, where there is significant opposition to whittling down the route to actuarial rates imposed by the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, the lobbyist said.
Under the Landrieu/Menendez bill, most of the rate increases imposed by B-W 12 would be delayed for up to four years. Only provisions imposing actuarial rates on businesses and second homes would be retained under S. 1610.
One industry lobbyist who is closely tracking he issue “says the Landrieu/Menendez bill has strong bi-partisan support and the support of the majority leader,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. “Plus not putting it on could ‘gum up the works’,” i.e., delay indefinitely action on the underlying bill.
“So, it has an excellent chance,” the lobbyist said.
“I think that the Landrieu./Menendez amendment will get on the shortlist and will either be included in the manager's amendment or put to an up or down vote on the floor,” the lobbyist said. “Either way, I think it becomes part of the Senate NDAA,” and goes directly to conference and final passage once passed by the Senate,” he said.
The NCOIL resolution says that B-W 12 “substantially and immediately devalued the investments made in all properties endowed with flood damage mitigation measures, as well as properties receiving subsidize rates.”
The resolution predicts that consumer confidence and the nation’s economy, including the banking and mortgage industries, will suffer—and says that “a violent rise” in premium costs may lead to financial distress for residents and property owners around the nation.
The resolution also, among other things, urges Congress and FEMA to actively and expeditiously explore the use of private reinsurance to protect against catastrophic loss.
The letter to Obama was drafted by the Greater New Orleans Organization, and was signed by hundreds of trade groups representing businesses and consumer groups, members of Congress, and other interested parties throughout the country.
It says that, “Severe repetitive loss designated properties notwithstanding, we respectfully urge you to administratively delay implementation of rate increases on all pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) businesses, non-primary residences, and homes purchased after enactment of the B-W-12, as well as the purchase provision on all pre-FIRM primary residences.”
Ironically, the letter adds, “while these increases were intended to make the NFIP solvent and protect taxpayers, it could have the opposite effect if business and homeowners are forced to drop flood insurance completely or face foreclosure as a result.”
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