Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Flood insurance reforms must put consumers first

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A St. Petersburg legislator is smart to begin laying the groundwork for a homegrown flood insurance solution. But the Legislature's challenge, should it embrace Sen. Jeff Brandes' plan, will be to craft a solution that serves consumers and not just the insurers' bottom line. With property insurance coverage, the devil is always in the details.

Brandes on Tuesday filed a bill to create a regulatory framework to encourage private insurers to write flood policies in Florida. The Republican wants a private market that's more flexible than the National Flood Insurance Program, which requires owners to take policies for the home's replacement value up to a hard cap of $250,000. Brandes wants private insurers to be able to offer just partial coverage, such as to cover a home's remaining mortgage, to keep costs low.

That is attractive given that such policies may help homeowners avoid losing their homes because they can't afford full flood coverage under new higher rates in the national program. Less clear is how such policies would be regulated or priced; whether insurers will be able to cherry-pick policies; or whether banks would agree to less-than-replacement-value coverage. Brandes is betting that private insurance solutions would be cheaper than the astronomical rate increases some new buyers of older homes are seeing under the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act.

The federal law, which took effect Oct. 1, is phasing out subsidies for older homes over the next five years, and immediately when the home is sold — which is causing shock waves in some of Tampa Bay's older neighborhoods. Next year, the same subsidy elimination plan is scheduled for properties whose owners have subsidized rates because new maps drew them into a higher-risk flood zone.

Already, private insurers in Florida who have received permission to add flood coverage to their existing homeowners' policies quote base prices that seem more reasonable. But that can mean little to a specific homeowner whose house sits below the so-called Base Flood Elevation — which is the Federal Emergency Management Agency's estimate of the flood height of a once-a-century storm.

The best solution remains for Congress to hit the pause button on Biggert-Waters and go back to the drawing board. Florida threatening to go its own way may encourage that. Florida policyholders have been a major donor to the national insurance program, contributing $4 in premiums for every $1 in claims. But state lawmakers shouldn't wait. Brandes' plan, along with others expected to emerge, will need a thorough vetting during the spring legislative session. Tallahassee will need to ensure it's not cleaning up Washington's mess by creating another one.

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Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17