Sunday, February 25, 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.

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Editorial: Learning from St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Law violation

Editorial: Learning from St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Law violation

A recent state appeals court opinion strikes a victory for open government in finding St. Petersburg city officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law. City councils and other government panels in Florida are allowed to meet in secret only in very lim...
Published: 02/25/18
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