Washington Update: Senators Oppose Flood Provision; Frank to Retire

The Senate Banking Committee is being urged to drop a provision in flood-insurance legislation that would require homeowners and businesses to purchase federal flood coverage even if their properties are protected by levees.

“Areas protected by properly constructed and maintained levees, dams and other flood-control infrastructure should not be arbitrarily declared areas of special flood hazard,” reads a letter to the committee from 13 senators on both sides of the aisle.

Others vocally disagree. Ray Lehmann, a vice president of the Heartland Institute, which consults with the insurance industry on catastrophe issues, said levees and other mitigation structures sometimes fail, and it is irresponsible public policy not to recognize that reality.

“We saw the devastating consequence of doing so most acutely in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when scores of homeowners found they were inadequately insured because they faced no requirement to purchase flood protection,” Lehmann said.

The senators’ letter asked the committee’s leadership to remove the provision in the Senate’s version of a long-term NFIP extension, “The Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act.”

The bill passed the committee Sept. 8, but floor action has been held up because Senate leaders of both parties are using the bill as an engine to attach unrelated provisions.

Rep. Barney Frank to Retire

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of the primary authors of the financial-services reform legislation passed by Congress last year, said he will not return after his term ends in 2013. Frank will have served 32 years in Congress.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is next in line to succeed Frank as ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee. Waters, however, is under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for her role in aiding a troubled bank in which her husband owns stock.

Next in line is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Frank, 71, had said in February that he would run for re-election, but said he changed his mind after his district was changed to include several more conservative areas. Frank told reporters he was too old to campaign in a new district and to represent hundreds of thousands of new constituents.

“I think I’d win,” he added, but “it would have been a tough race; I don’t like raising money.”

Joel Kopperud, director of government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, said, “It goes without saying that [Frank] was a real leader for members of the Financial Services Committee and the industry as a whole.”

Kopperud said Frank “will be missed not only for his intellect, but his candor and humor—always making committee hearings a little more interesting.”

“During his long career, Frank showed an understanding and appreciation of our industry,” Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association, said in a statement. “This was particularly evident during his tenure as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.”

Ben McKay, senior vice president/government affairs for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, called Frank “a passionate public servant…He remained committed to process throughout the Dodd-Frank Act.”

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