A federal district court judge in Mississippi appears to be setting the stage for a prompt decision on whether soaring federal flood insurance premium rate hikes should be stayed pending completion of a study as to whether those hikes are affordable.
In a three-page decision, Judge Louis Guirola, Jr., chief judge of the Federal District Court in Gulfport, Miss., late Monday rejected the effort of a Mississippi county to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the state insurance commissioner, Michael Chaney, in October.
Guirola said he believes the state insurance commissioner is “adequately” representing the needs of the state regarding the affordability issue, and that it is not necessary for Harrison County intervene in the lawsuit.
The court said that Harrison County does not claim “to represent any interest in this legislation other than the same interest the Mississippi Insurance Department purports to represent.
“Thus, the county has not shown that it has an interest in this litigation that will be adversely affected if it does not intervene,” the judge said.
A number of Gulf Coast states, as well as South Carolina and Massachusetts, have filed briefs supporting Mississippi’s October lawsuit.
The rate hikes are mandated by a 2012 law that requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to phase in actuarial rates for flood-insurance premiums for approximately 5.6 million customers of the National Flood Insurance Program over four years.
Chaney was not available for comment, but he said late last week he is hopeful that the court will move before the end of the year to stay the rate hikes, scheduled to go into effect early next year, pending further proceedings.
Legal sources in Mississippi say they are hopeful that the decision on the Hamilton County lawsuit will clear the way for court action on the Chaney lawsuit by the end of the year.
Congress is also trying to deal with the issue. The Senate leadership has agreed to consider early next year whether to take up expedited-procedures legislation that would delay the rate hikes for up to four years.