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Flood twice and pay more

Legislation aims to limit flood claims . . . An impeachment proceedings critic finds himself on trial . . . U.S. Sen. Connie Mack has skin cancer removed.

Florida's Gulf Coast was well represented on a map unveiled in Washington last week that showed the locations of repeated homeowner claims filed against the National Flood Insurance Program.

According to James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, these repeated claims _ each represented by a black dot on the map _ are responsible for the program's current $738-million deficit.

The map was the centerpiece of a news conference in which Witt and two members of Congress, Reps. Doug Bereuter, R-Neb., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., discussed newly introduced legislation designed to reduce repeated claims and eliminate the deficit.

Bereuter called it the "Two Floods and You Are Out of the Taxpayer's Pocket Act."

Under the proposal, homeowners who have more than one claim paid out of the fund and who refuse to move out of their flood-prone homes with compensation from the government will be forced to pay much higher rates if they want to continue to be covered by the flood insurance program.

An additional $400-million would be added to the program over four years to buy out these owners of homes with repeated claims.

The authors said the bill is necessary because (1) more homes are being built on coastlines and other flood plains and (2) more hurricanes and tropical storms are expected to hit these regions of the United States in the next few decades.

Signs to hurry impeachment process?

Richard Douglas Llamas gave voice to a nation's frustration last winter when he rose in the Senate gallery during the impeachment trial of President Clinton and screamed: "Good God almighty, take the vote and get it over with!"

Last month, a District of Columbia superior court jury convicted the Navy veteran and unemployed carpenter of disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.

At trial Llamas said he understood a nod by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to be a sign that he should advise senators to speed up.

Confirmation of Kennedy's intentions came from Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., who smiled, and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who laughed, Llamas testified.

During a discussion of the Sept. 10 sentencing date, prosecutors disclosed that Llamas suffers from bipolar disorder and "delusional thinking," the Washington Post reported.

Some might say he wasn't the only impeachment player who labored under that handicap.

Skin cancer removed

Sen. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral, underwent removal of two skin cancers from his back at the Bethesda Naval Hospital last week. Both small basal cell carcinomas were discovered during a routine dermatology examination.

Mack is a survivor of melanoma, a virulent skin cancer which killed his brother, Michael, in 1979. The cancers were not melanoma and are not likely to require follow-up tests or procedures, a Mack spokeswoman said.

Water resources bill passed

Congress last week passed the Water Resources Development Act of 1999, which authorizes more than 20 water management projects in Florida, including four for Everglades protection. The bill also authorizes $12.4-million for improvements to Big Bend Channel in Tampa Harbor. The legislation now goes to President Clinton for his expected signature.

Drug benefit proposal

Rep. Michael Bilirakis, chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the Medicare program, has outlined his proposal for expanding prescription drug coverage for senior citizens.

The Palm Harbor Republican would like to target benefits to those who need them most _ the poorest seniors and those with unusually high prescription costs. President Clinton, by contrast, has proposed expanding the drug benefit to all Medicare recipients regardless of need.

Long-term restructuring of the health program is necessary to keep it solvent, but Congress and the president have been unable to agree on a plan.

_ Compiled by Mary Jacoby and Sara Fritz of the Times Washington bureau.

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