Thursday, September 20, 2018
Business

Romano: Flood insurance rates still going up? Um, thanks?

Bless their scheming little hearts, they tried.

The folks in the U.S. House of Representatives got together and crunched numbers, weighed data, negotiated differences and came up with a flood insurance plan that hardly anyone likes.

And that includes some of the people who voted for it.

That’s more of an observation than actual criticism. Because, heaven knows, flood insurance is not easily solved. Not when it is perceived to be too generous and, simultaneously, too expensive.

So how should you feel about the new House plan?

Well, it’s not a complete disaster. It has long-range ideas that could be worthwhile. And it will not cause premiums to immediately skyrocket. It would also reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, which must be done by Dec. 8 or it will expire and create true chaos.

On the other hand, the House plan mostly tinkers when a revamp is necessary. And, ultimately, that means coastal areas such as Tampa Bay will still be on the hook when Florida is already disproportionately paying.

"It would not be a good thing for St. Petersburg,’’ said Noah Taylor, the city’s flood insurance expert.

Much of Taylor’s concerns are echoed by the Association of State Floodplain Managers, who basically spend all their time worrying about exactly this kind of wonky legislation.

"It does little to correct important deficiencies in the NFIP, and impairs the program’s ability to function as the nation’s primary comprehensive flood-risk management program,’’ the association’s director wrote in a letter to Congress last week.

The goals of the House bill are admirable. The idea is to incentivize communities to take more interest in fixing floods before the storms ever hit. The bill also tries to entice private insurers, and it seeks to move repetitive-loss homes off the NFIP rolls.

Nothing wrong with any of that.

"What we’re looking at are two things: How do you decrease exposure to taxpayers from flood events and how do you protect and enhance the resiliency of communities on the water,’’ said Laura Lightbody, who directs the Pew Charitable Trusts’ flood-prepared communities initiative. "There are some things in (the bill) we like, and some things that will need some work.’’

The House plan also continues to subsidize houses that were built before flood maps were created, as well as homes that may have seen their house rezoned over the years.

But those houses will also see their rates continue to increase, by as much as 15 percent per year, until they are actuarially sound. More fees and assessments will now also be added to bills.

The problem around here is that the NFIP has never been forthcoming about how it calculates rates. And considering Florida has paid four times as much in premiums as it has received in payouts for the past 35 years, it’s hard to justify rates that continually go up as actuarially sound.

The House bill passed mostly along partisan lines, although three South Florida Republicans voted against it. Locally, Democrats Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist voted no while Pinellas-Pasco Republican Gus Bilirakis voted in favor, saying the bill was flawed but still a step forward.

The Senate does not seem enthusiastic about the bill so now we wait for its plan.

Meanwhile, we continue to pay. And occasionally pray.

Comments
St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

St. Pete approves biggest budget in city history: $717 million

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council blessed the largest budget in city history on Thursday night, adopting a $717 million budget that starts Oct. 1.The 2019 budget is about $200 million more than the current budget. That massive increase was driven by ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data show

Marijuana use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens, federal data show

Talk to your grandparents about marijuana - before somebody else does.The latest release of a massive federal drug use survey shows monthly marijuana use has skyrocketed among older Americans. The past decade, in fact, has seen a sea change in the de...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Former Tampa Bay exec and Chico’s CEO Shelley Broader discusses changing retail in St. Pete visit

Former Tampa Bay exec and Chico’s CEO Shelley Broader discusses changing retail in St. Pete visit

ST. PETERSBURG — When Shelley Broader worked in Tampa Bay, she was turning around a failing grocery store.It was the early 2000s. Amazon wasn’t a powerhouse yet, people were still on Myspace and no one was ordering groceries online. On Thursday, she ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa Bay’s fastest selling used car is a Prius. Do you drive the slowest selling car?

Tampa Bay’s fastest selling used car is a Prius. Do you drive the slowest selling car?

Apparently, a lot of people in Tampa Bay are trying to get their hands on a Toyota Prius. An analysis by iSeeCars shows that the eco-friendly car is the fastest-selling used vehicle in the area, averaging 19.2 days on the market. That might not be su...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Cargill recalls more beef on E.coli worries from Colorado plant tied to previous recall

Cargill recalls more beef on E.coli worries from Colorado plant tied to previous recall

Cargill Inc. is recalling more than 132,600 pounds of ground beef possibly contaminated with harmful E. coli bacteria that food-safety investigators believe has already caused 17 illnesses and one death.The beef originated at a Cargill slaughterhouse...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Colorado-based alternative fuel company to hire 45 at new $10 million factory in Plant City

Colorado-based alternative fuel company to hire 45 at new $10 million factory in Plant City

PLANT CITY — Alternative fuel firm MLMC Florida will open a $10 million factory near the Hillsborough-Polk county line and will create 45 new jobs paying an average salary of at least $58,383 a year, officials said Thursday.Based in Parker, Colo., ML...
Published: 09/20/18
Publix has pumpkin spice everything on sale, and other deals this week in coupons (Sept. 20-26)

Publix has pumpkin spice everything on sale, and other deals this week in coupons (Sept. 20-26)

Sometimes, the coupon gods align. And, man, that’s beautiful because everyone loves so-cheap-it’s-almost-free stuff.Vegetarians rejoice: This week’s steal of a deal is for you. Publix has Quorn "chick’n" nuggets and patties on BOGO (buy one, get one)...
Published: 09/20/18
Homes sales jump in Pinellas and Hillsborough in August after months of declines

Homes sales jump in Pinellas and Hillsborough in August after months of declines

Home sales in August hit their highest levels in a year in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as prices throughout the Tampa Bay area continued to rise. In Pinellas, sales of single-family homes jumped nearly 7 percent from the same month a year ago....
Published: 09/20/18
Floridan hotel misses deadline, faces hearing on repairs to keep more concrete from falling

Floridan hotel misses deadline, faces hearing on repairs to keep more concrete from falling

TAMPA — When a chunk of concrete fell off the Floridan Palace Hotel last month, injuring a woman who was struck by debris, city officials gave the historic building’s owners a deadline to submit an engineering report and make repairs.That deadline ca...
Published: 09/20/18
Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Tapping home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses like groceries and utilities is a recipe for financial peril. It can work for a while, especially if home prices are rising. Eventually the spigot runs dry, bills pile up and your home can be lost to...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18