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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House won't vote on flood insurance bill this week



House Speaker John Boehner said this morning that the flood insurance bill has met "unintended consequences" and said a vote will not happen this week, as planned.

Speaking a news conference, Boehner did not elaborate on what happened.

Getting the votes is a likely culprit. A number of conservative groups had urged members to vote against the measure, which seeks to undo some of the changes of the 2012 Biggert-Waters law that caused steep rate hikes. Some Democrats were pushing for changes, and the bill was being fast-tracked, requiring a super majority to pass.

In a statement last night, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said: "It is unclear why the Republican leadership is insisting that the flood insurance bill receive a supermajority vote to pass. This will make it a tougher hill to climb and imperil immediate relief for our neighbors from skyrocketing flood insurance rates.”

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is a leader on the bill, released a statement Wednesday: “We are diligently working on improvements to the bill that the Senate alternative legislation failed to address. We have carefully built a coalition and drafted a solid proposal that has garnered widespread support. Now, small changes are being made to ensure passage of the bill and to ensure FEMA implements it correctly. This is the next step in providing comprehensive relief to homeowners and businesses. This is an opportunity to put good policy before politics and we are optimistic the legislation will move forward soon.”

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., also suggested that the delay has to do with making the bill better.

“This measure remains a work in progress," she said. "We continue to work in good faith with Republican leadership to address a number of technical and substantive issues related to the legislation, with the ultimate goal of correcting the unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. This could not be done overnight.”

The Senate last month passed a bill delaying major changes for four years but it met resistance in the House, where Republican leaders said it failed to address the insolvency of the National Flood Insurance Program.

The newly-released House alternative calls for a $25 annual assessment on primary residence policies covered by the NFIP, and about $250 for businesses and secondary residences — money that would go into a reserve fund.

The bill eliminates a provision of that 2012 law that said subsidized rates disappear when a person sells a primary home, which has stymied the real estate market. But going forward, rates could still rise by an average of 15 percent a year.

It also reinstates grandfathered flood insurance rates that would go away under new FEMA flood maps; provides a refund for people who purchased a home since 2012 and had to pay higher rates; and calls on FEMA to complete within two years a study on the affordability of phasing in more actuarially-sound insurance premiums.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 3:05pm]


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