Sunday, May 20, 2018
Opinion

Column: Florida deserves reforms to federal flood insurance system

Communities across the state are still rebuilding from last year’s historic hurricane season. Fortunately, Florida’s recovery efforts will soon be bolstered with the help of recently allocated federal funds, but Congress cannot let our country face another hurricane season without addressing the outdated disaster policies that do little to protect lives and property in harm’s way. We must start by fixing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The NFIP provides critical flood coverage to more than 1.7 million policyholders in Florida. For nearly a year, the program has been on life support, operating under short-term authorizations, as Congress debates solutions to the program’s shortcomings that reasonable minds can agree must be addressed. Last June, the House of Representatives passed a legislative package to reform and reauthorize the program, but due to inaction in the Senate, policyholders are barreling toward hurricane season with an outdated program that does little to protect people in harm’s way, the environment and taxpayer dollars. With the NFIP scheduled to expire July 31, the Senate cannot continue to delay advancing much needed reforms to this broken and bankrupt program.

One important aspect of the House-passed bill is a bipartisan measure I introduced with my Florida colleague, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, which would make flood insurance more affordable for a vast majority of Americans by leveling the playing field for private sector competition. In fact, a recent study by Milliman found that 77 percent of Florida homeowners could see their flood insurance premiums reduced if Congress passed this technical correction to the current federal flood law.

Florida residents have already started to experience the benefits of private sector involvement in the state’s flood insurance marketplace. Gov. Rick Scott led the effort four years ago by implementing new regulations that simplified the process for private insurers to offer coverage, resulting in a small but growing market of private carriers.

On the federal level, an expanded market would provide much-needed relief for the NFIP by shifting some of the financial burden off of taxpayers and onto the private sector. It would also provide Florida residents with more options, better rates and higher coverage limits. Passing this measure must be a top priority for the Senate as the NFIP’s deadline nears.

At the same time, the Senate must require the NFIP to use the most accurate risk assessment tools and technology to update its flood maps, which are meant to identify the areas that are most vulnerable to extreme weather events. Doing so would help communities fully understand their actual flood risk so they can better prepare for future storms.

The NFIP must also do a better job at incentivizing storm mitigation efforts to keep people and property safe from storms. Studies show every $1 put toward mitigation efforts saves the federal government $6 in disaster recovery costs. This change would help lower future disaster costs as well as a policyholder’s individual flood insurance rate by reducing their overall risk.

Floridians are counting on Congress to address this issue before the next hurricane hits. We have done our part in the House, and urge the Senate to waste no time and act.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, represents the 15th Congressional District that includes northeast Hillsborough County.

Comments
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18