Enact Flood Insurance Bill

West Virginia state senators have reacted decisively to a mistake made by Congress – one that could affect thousands of area residents adversely. The House of Delegates should follow suit.

Thousands of Ohio Valley residents have flood insurance through a federal program. Premiums for it are increasing drastically because of a law enacted in 2012.

Members of Congress agreed to the measure because of well-placed concern about the National Flood Insurance Program. Primarily because of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the NFIP is nearly $25 billion in debt. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012 was intended to avoid more catastrophic flood insurance losses in the future.

But Biggert-Waters was flawed. Clearly, flood insurance premium increases ought to target owners of property – in this case, on seacoasts – where claims have eclipsed revenue. Instead, the law adopted a blanket approach, authorizing higher premiums for everyone. That unfairly penalizes people such as Ohio Valley residents, whose flood insurance claim record is not one of depleting the program’s resources.

As we have reported, the change will make it much more expensive to insure some property along creeks and rivers. It also will make selling such property difficult if not impossible.

Congress has dragged its feet on amending Biggert-Waters. That prompted state Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, to introduce a bill allowing private insurance companies in West Virginia to provide flood insurance as an alternative to the federal program.

Last week, state senators voted unanimously to approve the Fitzsimmons bill. It is being scrutinized this week by committees in the House of Delegates.

As has been pointed out, enactment of the bill is no panacea. Authorizing insurance companies to provide flood insurance and having them actually do so is not the same thing.

Still, the Fitzsimmons bill is a good idea. It at least offers property owners a potential option to the ridiculously expensive federal government program. House of Delegates members should approve the bill and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should sign it into law.