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House won't vote on flood insurance this week

WASHINGTON — House leaders on Wednesday put off a vote on a bill that would reverse steep flood insurance rate increases, as pressure built from opponents and Democratic supporters sought a number of changes.

House Speaker John Boehner announced during a news conference that the legislation had encountered "unintended consequences," and he said a vote will not happen this week as planned.

Boehner did not elaborate but was hopeful it could come up next week.

But the bill — the outlines of which surfaced only late last week — would have had to pass by a supermajority because it bypassed normal procedures, and there were doubts that the votes were there.

Some conservative groups had urged members to vote against the bill, saying the 2012 reforms now being targeted are necessary to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program and phase out government subsidies.

Democrats in favor of a fix were pushing for changes as well. Advocates say they are seeking a more lasting remedy than those in a bill that passed the Senate and would have delayed major changes for four years.

"We have carefully built a coalition and drafted a solid proposal that has garnered widespread support," said Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a lead sponsor. "Now, small changes are being made to ensure passage of the bill and to ensure FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) implements it correctly. … This is an opportunity to put good policy before politics, and we are optimistic the legislation will move forward soon."

The plan would eliminate a provision of the 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 would also reinstate grandfathered flood insurance rates that would go away under new FEMA flood maps, provide a refund for people who bought a home since 2012 and had to pay higher rates, and call on FEMA to finish within two years a study on the affordability of phasing in more actuarially sound insurance premiums.

To address the insolvency of the flood program, it calls for a $25 annual assessment on primary residence policies covered by the program and about $250 for businesses and secondary residences.

House won't vote on flood insurance this week 02/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 9:58pm]
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