Make us your home page
Instagram

John Romano: Flood insurance bill is a good start, but it's not enough

Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, speaks at a news conference last month in Clearwater about a new legislative proposal regarding flood insurance. The proposal will provide private sector flood insurance alternatives to the rising rates of the National Flood Insurance Program for Florida policyholders.

Associated Press

Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, speaks at a news conference last month in Clearwater about a new legislative proposal regarding flood insurance. The proposal will provide private sector flood insurance alternatives to the rising rates of the National Flood Insurance Program for Florida policyholders.

Senate Bill 542, approved and forwarded by the banking and insurance committee on Wednesday, begins simply enough:

"An act relating to flood insurance … "

What follows are about 3,500 more words, a bunch of numbers, a handful of semi colons and one simple message:

Help!

The bill, proposed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is essentially a plea for private insurance companies to set up shop in Florida. Sort of legislative flirting, if you will.

Regulations? We'll relax them. Experts? We'll hire them. Premiums? We'll pay them. FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program? We'll leave them.

This is a proposed coupling between desperation and opportunity. And in case you were confused, we're the desperate ones.

The idea is that the federal rates have become so warped that private companies might be enticed into writing their own policies if the state gives them the flexibility to reduce their risk by offering somewhat limited coverage.

"If we can get them to come in and compete for policies, this can be a win-win situation for us all," said Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, who is expected to file a companion bill in the House on Friday.

That, of course, is the hope.

The reality is more challenging.

Elected officials probably have the motivation and momentum to get the bill passed early in the upcoming legislative session, but that does not mean insurance companies will drop their indemnities and come running.

Or have you forgotten how the Liberty Mutual and Allstate crowd bailed on homeowners policies throughout Florida a few years ago?

"This bill is definitely a step in the right direction," said Jake Holehouse of Holehouse Insurance. "But it's only about 10 to 15 percent of the work that needs to be accomplished. If the Legislature stops at this bill, we're all going to be disappointed."

The problem is the feds have had a virtual monopoly on flood insurance policies in Florida the past few decades. They have the pertinent data, they have the maps and they seem to have very little interest in sharing.

That means Florida might have a hard time selling itself to private insurers who are going to want more details before exposing themselves to potential losses.

The Brandes bill attempts to address that issue by creating a regulatory framework that would include a flood plains engineer and a meteorologist who specializes in floods. But considering FEMA has about a 35-year head start on data, it's hard to imagine that a couple of experts could have the state figured out by, oh, April.

It's more likely that the state will have to invest a hefty sum in creating its own flood zone database in order to entice private insurance companies.

Is that realistic? Perhaps, but not in the short term.

That means you might want to keep an eye on Washington, D.C., to see if lawmakers from Florida and other affected states can throw a body block in front of the Biggert-Waters Act. That legislation, which became law in October and eliminated federal flood insurance subsidies, still has a lot of supporters among the austerity crowd.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on a bill that would delay Biggert-Waters for several years or until FEMA completes an overdue affordability study. Getting the House to go along could be iffy.

So, yeah, it's a good thing Florida lawmakers are not waiting on Congress. And it's a good idea to woo private insurers. Just don't be surprised if they play hard to get.

John Romano: Flood insurance bill is a good start, but it's not enough 01/08/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 9:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  3. Early estimates peg Hurricane Irma damage at as much as $65B

    Banking

    The damage totals from Hurricane Irma are still being tallied, but early numbers are in: As of Tuesday, the storm is estimated to have caused between $42.5 billion and $65 billion of damage. That's according to a Tuesday release by Irvine, Calif.-based analytics company CoreLogic.

    Hurricane Irma is estimated to have caused up to $65 billion in damage, said analytics company CoreLogic. Pictured is 
Hermilo Munoz Castillo as wades down a flooded street to check on his home in southern Collier County, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed. | [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project

    Business

    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]
  5. One of St. Petersburg's newest condo projects is sold out

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. Records show that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit sold Friday for $620,000 in an all-cash deal. Two other units — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath penthouse and a …

     Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. 
[Rendering courtesy of aalliiggnn LLC]