Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress must act to ease pain of flood insurance rates

The longer it takes Washington to respond to suffocating new flood insurance rates for millions of property owners, the clearer it is that last year's so-called reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program need more work. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators including Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio renewed a promise to persuade Congress to embrace a retroactive delay on higher premiums for homes built before federal flood maps existed. That would be a start, but the broader aim of any new legislation should be a reconsideration of the assumptions used to calculate the exorbitant rates in the first place.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, the subsidies for flood insurance granted under the national flood program aren't just for expensive waterfront homes. As the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday, of the 33,000 older homes in Pinellas County receiving subsidies, the median value is $132,245 and the size is typically 1,430 square feet. Two out of three of the homes don't have a view of the water — even in peninsular Pinellas. Under changes effective Tuesday as part of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, those homeowners will face substantially higher rates when they renew — roughly 20 percent each year for the next five years to reach so-called "market rates." Even more devastating for the real estate market and the Florida economy: New owners of such homes must pay the "market rate" immediately.

But just what is the market rate based on? Even senators said Tuesday that's unclear. Part of the law's goal is to create a program solvent enough so that future Treasury loans won't be necessary, and to retire about $25 billion in loans the flood insurance program has in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. But how quickly that debt is retired has a big impact on rates. In some cases, for example, Times reporters have found new rates that mean a new owner of an older home would pay rates equal to one-twelfth the value of their home every year. Biggert-Waters had anticipated providing some relief from the new rates on a by-need basis, based on the results of an affordability study that still hasn't been completed.

No one disputes that the program needs long-term reform. But causing short-term economic calamity for families and dozens of communities nationwide is irresponsible. And nowhere is that danger more acute than in Florida, which has five of the top 10 counties in the country impacted by Tuesday's rate changes: Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Lee, Broward and Collier.

Rubio finally got past Washington's current partisan theatrics to embrace his responsibility to help find a solution for Floridians. Far less helpful was the partisanship of Gov. Rick Scott, who tried to blame President Barack Obama. Only the U.S. House and Senate can do the work needed to fix Biggert-Waters. It's time for Congress to do its job.

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Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18