Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Flood insurance reforms must put consumers first

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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William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18