Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Flood insurance bill a step in right direction

It is not perfect, and it is far from ideal for Florida's real estate market. But the bipartisan flood insurance fix passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday is far preferable to the status quo, provides temporary relief for thousands of Tampa Bay homeowners and should be approved by the House. It's the least members of Congress can do after passing flood insurance "reforms" in 2012 with no understanding of the unreasonable financial pain they would inflict on middle-class neighborhoods.

The Senate bill, approved by a 67-32 vote, would delay for up to four years for homeowners the new flood insurance rates that took effect Oct. 1. The new rates under the 2012 Biggert-Waters law were aimed at eliminating the subsidies on policies for older homes built before federal flood maps were drawn. But the new rates are far too high, and the Senate bill would provide time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to do an affordability study, fine-tune its mapping and address other questions about how the agency determined actuarially sound rates that were required under the 2012 law. It also would forestall another round of subsidy elimination scheduled for this year for so-called "grandfathered" rates, which are applied when a property is drawn into a higher-risk flood zone.

Unfortunately for Florida, the Senate bill does not delay the higher Biggert-Water rates for non-homeowner-occupied properties. That means anyone buying older or "grandfathered" homes in flood-zone areas as an investment property or second home would still pay higher rates. That will ultimately drive away buyers for properties in some Florida neighborhoods.

But the bill would help homeowners who bought an older home after the law's July 1, 2012, effective date but before the impact was widely understood. In Pinellas County, home to more subsidized policies than anywhere in the country, new owners are being charged up to 10 times more for flood insurance than previous owners. Those soaring rates have stalled property sales in many older, low-lying neighborhoods.

The National Flood Insurance Program, buried in $24 billion of debt after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, needs reform. But in addressing one financial crisis, Congress created thousands more for middle-class Americans and their communities. In Pinellas County, for example, the median value of homes affected by the law is just $132,000. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, initially reticent to the Senate plan, came to appreciate that Floridians need relief and joined Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday in voting for the bill.

Now seven House Republicans from Florida need to make clear that they support immediate relief for homeowners and join their colleagues in pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to act. Reps. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Ted Yoho of Gainesville, Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville, Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, John Mica of Winter Park, Bill Posey of Rockledge and Daniel Webster of Orlando have not signed on as co-sponsors to a similar House plan. They express concerns with various provisions. But they have not offered an alternative that will immediately help Floridians coping with the problem Congress created. They should not let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

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Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17