Friday, June 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Flood insurance finally front, center

The U.S. House's proposed legislation to provide relief from soaring flood insurance rates is the most encouraging sign in weeks for Florida homeowners who can't afford the new premiums or sell their houses. The new, bipartisan plan provides a thoughtful approach to fixing problems created by the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act and should set the stage for negotiations with the Senate on a reasonable solution to a manufactured crisis that Congress created. As the real estate market sputters in some neighborhoods, it's important that Congress keeps moving forward.

A major philosophical difference still exists between the House and Senate. The House bill released Monday is viewed as a long-term fix for the deficit-ridden National Flood Insurance Program. It would continue to reduce premium subsidies for homes built before flood zone maps were drawn, but on a more gradual slope than existing law. It also would no longer automatically eliminate subsidies when a property is sold. The Senate bill would establish a four-year delay on Biggert-Waters' rates for homeowners, with an eye to considering later, broader reforms after addressing questions about how the program's rates are set and how flood maps are drawn. NBC News reported last week that at least 500 times in recent years, wealthy waterfront property owners in Florida and elsewhere have quietly and successfully appealed federal flood map changes, winning lower premiums while their neighbors still face higher rates. It is unfair that those with the most money and the best connections are being treated differently than typical homeowners.

Both the House and Senate plans call for continuing Biggert-Waters' aggressive schedule to eliminate subsidies for commercial properties built before flood maps were drawn. Both also would give the Federal Emergency Management Agency more resources to conduct an affordability study. But the House also envisions levying assessments of $250 on commercial properties and $25 on homeowners to pay off the program's $24 billion debt.

Many of the House details deserve a harder look. The plan would limit annual increases in a single risk classification to 5 to 15 percent on average. But that still could mean owners of older homes could see their premiums grow faster, even matching the 20 percent increases under Biggert-Waters. Also worth examining is the House's plan to keep premium subsidies given to homes when revised maps place them in higher-risk flood zones. The phaseout of those subsidies and subsidies for homes built before any flood maps existed is too abrupt in the current law. But the House should explain why it would keep premium subsidies for homes affected by revised flood maps (known as grandfathering) but not for homes built before any maps were drawn at all.

There is still compromise to come, but the House should pass some version of its plan this week so negotiations can begin with the Senate and homeowners can get some relief from a fundamentally unfair flood insurance law. The House leadership is finally giving this issue the attention it deserves, and Florida's House members should keep up the pressure.

Comments
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
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...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

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 FBIís 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 itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18