Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress needs to act on flood law

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is finally standing up for Floridians hit by punishing flood insurance premium increases, and state lawmakers in Tallahassee have hatched a plan to woo private flood insurers to the state. But more than three months after a federal law eliminated flood insurance subsidies from policies for some older homes, the best solution remains congressional action. Florida should keep looking for a state alternative, but this problem is best fixed in Washington.

The plan by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, to establish a private flood insurance market in Florida sailed through its first hearing last week. Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, is planning to push the same plan in the House for the legislative session that begins in March.

But even if the proposal sails through the Legislature, relief won't be immediate, as both private insurers and state regulators would need to gear up for the new products. Nor is there any guarantee about potential rates or whether a key provision of the plan to help keep insurance costs low — to allow homeowners to buy only enough insurance to cover their mortgage — would be accepted by lenders.

Even Brandes acknowledges it still would be best, in the short term, for Congress to pass legislation delaying the implementation of Biggert-Waters for up to four years. That would give both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Florida time to build insurance plans that are more affordable and sustainable.

After weeks of being invisible, Rubio finally made it clear last week that he would support a plan by a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Bill Nelson, to delay Biggert-Waters implementation until rates can be studied for affordability. The Senate vote could come this week.

Opponents to delay are claiming that stalling Biggert-Waters and its higher rates will exacerbate the flood insurance program's $24 billion shortfall. But they fail to appreciate the damage the legislation already has wrought in communities across the nation — stalling real estate transactions and trapping families in their homes. That impact would only grow later this year when the law will eliminate another group of subsidies for policyholders who had grandfathered rates after updated flood maps put them into a higher-risk zone.

Nowhere has the impact been greater than in Pinellas County, home to the most subsidized policies in the nation. Under the federal changes, policy costs are rising 20 percent a year for properties built prior to the creation of federal flood maps, roughly the mid-1970s. But for new buyers of those homes, subsidies are being eliminated, meaning modest homes that can be miles from the coast have become unsellable to anyone but cash buyers because new owners would pay up to 10 times more.

The federal insurance program does need reform, as Rubio made clear he will insist upon even as he supports a delay in Biggert-Waters. But as the senator came to appreciate, Congress first needs to stop the crisis it created and go back to the drawing board.

Comments
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18