Finalize Flood Insurance Fix

Members of Congress made an enormous mistake in 2012. Fortunately, it appears lawmakers are eager to correct it.

When Congress approved the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, the intent was to address a $25 billion debt facing the National Flood Insurance Program. It resulted primarily from tidal waves of claims related to Hurricane Katrinia and Superstorm Sandy.

But, as we were the first in our area to report, the new law hit thousands of area property owners hard – and unfairly. They were notified of gigantic increases in flood insurance premiums.

In signing Biggert-Waters into law, President Barack Obama paved the way for NFIP officials to dump those increases on unsuspecting property owners. It appears the agency did not complete a project to update flood zone maps – as required in the new law – before increasing the premiums.

Perhaps because the NFIP went ahead without assessing flood risk properly, inland residents are bearing an unfair share of the higher premiums. Increases for many of them are truly outrageous and totally out of proportion to the history of flood insurance claims for people living along creeks and rivers. Most of the $25 billion in NFIP losses was due to coastal storms. Property owners such as those in our area should not pay higher premiums to subsidize them.

Members of the Senate already have approved a bill to back away from Biggert-Waters, at least temporarily while more work on flood risk maps is completed.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 306-91 to approve a similar bill.

Of course, members of the two houses will agree on a final version. That seems likely to happen with a minimum of controversy, clearing the way for a bill to be sent to Obama for his signature.

Let us hope the president does sign the bill. As some people have noticed, Obama has a tendency to approve lavish spending on programs he likes, while objecting to it in areas where he does not have a personal interest. The flood insurance correction bill would cost the government money temporarily, in order to get things right for the long term.

Any hint of a veto by the president should be reacted to immediately and decisively by Congress, with members making it clear that, if necessary, they will override Obama.