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Legislators debate flood act
Opponents of a federal overhaul to the National Flood Insurance Program watched closely this week as state and federal legislators drew nearer to actions aimed against the changes.

Since going into effect Oct. 1, 2013, the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, a bill written to address the Federal Emergency Management Agency's $24 billion debt, has raised concerns about potential premium increases on some properties.

In the Georgia House of Representatives, the administration and licensing subcommittee of the House Insurance Committee Monday approved a resolution sponsored by state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-Brunswick, to express to federal lawmakers the state's disapproval of the Biggert-Waters Act. Atwood said he anticipates a vote on the resolution in the insurance committee today.

The resolution asserts the Biggert-Waters Act will stunt economic recovery in the state, cause unreasonable rates, and if left in place, damage individuals, businesses and state and local economies.

A similar resolution submitted by state Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island, in the Senate remains in the Senate Insurance Committee.

Members of the U.S. Congress, who unlike state legislators have the power to change federal law, are also discussing the issue.

The Senate voted, 86-13, Monday to end debate and proceed to a vote on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, legislation cosponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

"This is an important debate, not just for coastal states, not just for the coastline, but for the entire United States," Isakson said from the Senate floor. "The unintended consequence of Biggert-Waters as it goes into place is less insurance coverage ... and more damage in the case of another terrible storm like Sandy or Katrina."

Both Isakson and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., voted to end debate. However, Lauren Claffey, Chambliss' communications director, said he has not offered support for Isakson's legislation.

"(Chambliss) believes taxpayers deserve financial stability in the government-run flood insurance program, and he looks forward to a full debate on this problem," Claffey said.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a co-sponsor of the Biggert-Waters Act, released a statement Monday in support of the Senate's action. Waters now opposes of her original bill after realizing the effect it has on individuals.

"While flood insurance reform was well intended, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency's) poor implementation, inaccurate mapping and incomplete data have led to unreasonable and unimaginable increases in premiums," Waters said. "(Monday) the Senate took a major step forward to ensure that not one more family suffers from increased premiums, depressed home prices or the inability to buy or sell their home."

Lauren Culbertson, deputy communications director for Isakson's office, said she is confident the bill will pass the Senate.

The bill would then move on to the House, where it has 180 cosponsors. Representatives from Georgia in support of the bill include Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and Rep. David Scott, D-Jonesboro.

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, has not backed the Senate legislation.

* Reporter Kelly Quimby writes about government and other local topics. Contact her at kquimby@thebrunswicknews.com, or at 265-8320, ext. 321.



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