Editorial: Where's Rubio on flood insurance?

Published Sept. 30, 2013

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had plenty of time this weekend to rail against the Affordable Care Act. But when it came to safeguarding hundreds of thousands of Floridians facing dramatically higher flood insurance rates starting today, he has been largely silent. Welcome to another sign of how dysfunctional Washington has become when millions of American households, and by extension local economies, are at risk but nothing happens.

Under the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, dramatically higher flood insurance premiums go in effect starting today for homes built before the early 1970s when federal flood maps were first adopted. For new owners of those older homes, the impact can be a fivefold increase in price overnight — a change real estate professionals say is already slowing sales in Pinellas County, where some 51,000 properties are affected. Nearly 22,000 properties are affected in Hillsborough County. And even owners who stay in their older home will face five years of double-digit rate increases until they reach a so-called "market rate."

Floridian Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, summed up the problem with Biggert-Waters last month when he told a Senate committee: "There is no provision for affordability in this law." Who can change that? Congress. But so far there's little hope the Senate will act on a plan drafted by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. And even House agreement on the issue, so far, is limited to stalling a different set of price increases planned for 2014.

In Florida, 269,000 property owners today face a far different landscape when it comes to affording their flood insurance or selling their property. Yet Rubio can't seem to find the time to care.