Sunday, August 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likely that Congress will seek a two-week extension before finally getting around to fixing this problem. Letís hope members of both political parties take it more seriously this time.

Itís not like Congress hasnít been attuned to the issue. Since the disastrous Biggert-Waters legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, flood insurance has been an ongoing problem, both in terms of premium increases and taxpayer liabilities. The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 alleviated some of the fallout, but it was a temporary fix.

With the NFIP approaching $30 billion in debt this year, along with $16 billion already written off by the federal government, there is ample reason for Congress to come up with a comprehensive plan. The problem is that lawmakers from non-coastal regions want residents in Florida, Texas, Louisiana and other similar states to bear the entire burden.

The House passed legislation last month that would gradually eliminate subsidized rates and cause premiums for Florida homeowners to continue to rise. While increased rates eventually may be necessary, it cannot be the main strategy. Congress needs to devote more money to mitigating future floods instead of hammering middle class homeowners, most of whom do not live in mansions or on the waterfront.

The wiser strategy is updating flood maps that are decades old and not nearly detailed enough. That might mean more homeowners will be required to buy flood insurance, but spreading the risk would save money in the long run and invite more private insurers to participate. There also should be a more comprehensive plan to either raise the elevation of homes or buy those that repeatedly flood, because paying multiple claims on the same property ends up costing the NFIP far more than the actual value of the houses.

There was hope that the Senate would build on the House plan and incorporate some of these strategies to come up with a more reasonable path forward. Unfortunately, Congress has been preoccupied with regressive tax cuts and never had meaningful discussions about NFIP reform.

With the flood insurance program set to expire on Friday, an extension is absolutely the right path to take. While the ill-conceived Biggert-Waters plan caused flood insurance premiums to temporarily skyrocket and disrupted the real estate market in Florida, allowing the NFIP program to expire would be exponentially worse.

There are signs that lawmakers in coastal states might band together to ensure a more positive fix. The congressional delegations from Florida and Texas sent a letter to leadership this week, expressing disappointment with federal relief aid for the 2017 hurricane season and pledging not to support a budget deal unless more money was provided. That kind of cooperation also is needed for flood insurance.

Whether the extension is for two weeks or two months, the issue eventually must be confronted and fixed. Kicking the can down the road is not the optimal strategy, but it is preferable to the Houseís flawed plan. Florida homeowners need someone to be their advocate on this issue. Itís up to the Senate to come through before the next hurricane season arrives.

Comments
Editorial: Did Rick Scottís wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scottís wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.ē In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hereís what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Hereís what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons ó machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what weíd be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they havenít been ó and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote ó or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote ó or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didnít bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump ó 27.6 percent ó or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last monthís deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Itís time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the courtís operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18