Monday, April 23, 2018
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.

Comments

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
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: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Updated: 1 hour ago

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...
Updated: 8 hours ago
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: 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