Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Fairness and federal flood policy

More evidence that recent flood insurance changes don't make sense: Property owners in St. Petersburg have paid far more into the federal insurance program over the past three decades than they have received in claims — despite ranking among the top 30 communities in the nation in the amount of claims received. And since Oct. 1, they've been on notice they must pay even more. Congress needs to embrace the bipartisan plan to retroactively delay rate increases under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and then draft a flood insurance solution that is fair and reasonable.

The Shore Acres neighborhood in St. Petersburg has long been well-known for flooding, with images every few years of residents kayaking the streets after a major storm. Built before federal flood maps were drawn and the insurance program launched, the homes there qualify for flood insurance at a reduced rate. But as the Tampa Bay Times' Susan Taylor Martin and Connie Humburg reported Monday, the neighborhood on Tampa Bay is not one of the reasons the nation's flood insurance program is in crisis.

Martin and Humburg found that over the past 35 years, St. Petersburg property owners — even as they live in Pinellas County, home to more subsidized policies than anywhere — paid $8 in premiums for every $1 in claims they have collected. That's even more than the $4-to-$1 ratio for all of Florida. And claims in Shore Acres have diminished in the past two decades amid a $9.2 million investment by the city in infrastructure — not insignificant given that the flood insurance program has always been part of a broader policy to encourage communities to invest in flood mitigation measures.

Yet after Biggert-Waters went into effect Oct. 1, Shore Acres homeowners have been among those hardest hit. Subsidies are being eliminated over the next five years for homeowners, in some cases leading to premiums as much as five times higher. Also devastating is the impact on the real estate market, because under the law anyone purchasing an older home in a low-lying area after July 1, 2012, must pay the unsubsidized rate immediately.

Biggert-Waters wasn't supposed to work this way. Drafted in the wake of enormous losses from Hurricane Katrina, its goal was to make the insurance program solvent over the next decade by eliminating subsidies and raising rates. But Congress expected the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the insurance program, to perform an affordability study and adopt new mapping technologies before setting new rates. FEMA did neither, saying there wasn't time. Now no one is exactly sure how it set the rates, given that a Government Accountability Office report in July noted the agency didn't even have elevation levels for individual policies.

Late last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Nelson and much of the Florida congressional delegation, filed identical bills in both chambers to retroactively delay the rates until more analysis can be done. When those will be heard, much less voted on, is unclear. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should make it a priority. Then Congress needs to make it a priority that the next flood insurance plan is a rational one.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18