Senate Vote to Delay Flood Rate Hikes Could Come Before Thanksgiving

A Senate vote on legislation that would delay flood insurance premium increases for up to four years may take place next week.

Industry officials and members of Congress and their staffs confirm that efforts are underway by sponsors of the legislation to have it attached to the 2014 version of the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA).

The NDAA passed the House by an overwhelming majority June 14. It has been held up in the Senate for a variety of reasons, including requests by women members of the Senate to include provisions designed to strengthen prosecution of members of the military charged with sexual assault and to deter these assaults.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is seeking to get the 60 votes necessary to bring the NDAA to the floor and have it voted on before the Senate leaves for its Thanksgiving recess Nov. 22.

The flood bill is S. 1610, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Act. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who is managing the bill as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy, has indicated that he will seek to attach the bill to the NDAA when the bill comes up for a vote. Industry lobbyists and Senate officials say Reid will support the effort to attach the bill to the NDAA.

Primary sponsor of the bill is Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. It has the support of 21 senators. Companion legislation in the House has as its chief sponsor, Rep. Maxine Waters-D-Calif., ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee. The House bill has 128 sponsors. The House bill is H.R. 3370.

Revisiting the flood insurance premium rate increases has broad support in Congress, with members of Congress from Hawaii to Vermont urging passage of such legislation. There is also a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the increases filed in Federal District Court in Gulfport, Miss. It was filed by the insurance commissioner of Mississippi, but South Carolina already filed a brief supporting the injunction last week, and Alabama and Florida jointly filed a similar brief this week. Louisiana is also drafting a brief supporting the lawsuit.

A court hearing around Nov. 28 on the request for an injunction is expected.

The bill that has been drafted would delay most of the rate hikes until FEMA completes the affordability study mandated by the law, proposes alternatives to the rate hikes, and gives Congress adequate time to review their findings.

The Senate bill has generated support from members of Congress from Hawaii to Vermont.

It would also give FEMA more time to complete the study, provide reimbursement to qualifying homeowners for successful map appeals, give communities fair credit for locally-funded flood protection systems, and create an ombudsman within FEMA to answer policyholder questions.

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