U.S. Representative

Dennis A. Ross

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House Approves Bipartisan Flood Insurance Reform

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Washington, September 28, 2017 | comments

House Approves Bipartisan Flood Insurance Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 28, 2017 – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3823, the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act, by a vote of 264 to 155. This legislation included the text of the bipartisan Flood Insurance Market Development Act, introduced by Reps. Dennis A. Ross (R-FL-15) and Kathy Castor (D-FL-14). Their bipartisan legislation would facilitate the development of a robust private flood insurance market that will provide homeowners more coverage options and lower costs. Congressman Ross made the following statement after passage of the legislation:

"The recent major flood events across the country have provided a much-needed sense of urgency to our efforts to provide consumers with private sector flood insurance options. Currently, many homeowners in Florida and across the country face unaffordable flood insurance premiums and a lack of coverage options, largely due to burdensome federal regulatory barriers that give the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a harmful monopoly over flood insurance policies,” said Rep. Ross. “The Flood Insurance Market Development Act will greatly benefit consumers in flood prone areas because it will remove these unnecessary barriers and allow more private flood insurers to enter the market, leading to increased competition and more affordable, comprehensive policies.”

“As with other forms of insurance, the private sector, in conjunction with state insurance commissioners, can provide the innovation and flexibility that will help homeowners better manage and understand their risk, while also reducing the number of uninsured homes and incentivizing investments in flood mitigation and resiliency efforts. It would be irresponsible to delay passage of this bipartisan reform any longer. If our Senate colleagues are serious about improving the flood protections available to homeowners and reducing the suffering caused by major floods, then they must act quickly to pass this legislation.”

Prior to the vote, Congressman Ross spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to urge his colleagues to support this legislation. His remarks are reprinted below, and a video of the speech will be available on his website, https://dennisross.house.gov/.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017, and urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this desperately needed legislation.

Included in this bill are two provisions that are particularly important to my constituents in central Florida. One is tax relief for the families and small businesses recovering from the destruction of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma. The other is language taken from my legislation, the Private Flood Insurance Market Development Act, which will allow private sector insurers to compete with the National Flood Insurance Program. 

 

The catastrophic impact of the 3 major hurricanes is heartbreaking and tragic. However, it has been inspiring to witness the outpouring of charity and goodwill from our communities in response.

 

Now, it’s time for this Congress to rise to the occasion.

 

The tax relief for disaster victims in this legislation is a great first step.

 

This bill will help individuals in the disaster areas keep their jobs; support retirement savers paying for recovery; encourage charitable contributions to help victims; put more money in the pockets of families trying to get their lives back on track after having lost everything.

 

To deny our constituents this relief because it’s not enough is simply irresponsible.

 

To be sure, I agree that more aid will likely be needed, but is that really a good excuse to do nothing? I certainly don’t think so.

 

Mr. Speaker, this bill isn’t just about providing immediate relief. Thankfully, it also provides some measure of long-term relief to communities vulnerable to floods – the most costly of all natural disasters.

 

Thanks to the inclusion of my legislation, H.R. 1422, this bill will provide consumers with more options and lower costs in the flood insurance marketplace, as well as help to reduce the unacceptable number of homes not insured for flood losses.

 

Last Congress, this House passed nearly identical legislation by a vote of 419-0! That’s why I was so disheartened to hear some characterize this reform as a “long-time Republican priority.”

 

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat priority. This is a national priority.

 

The NFIP is more than $25 billion in debt, and runs an annual deficit of $1.4 billion. Folks, this is an insurance company on the brink of being unable to pay out claims to policyholders without another taxpayer bailout.

 

The NFIP desperately needs to off-load some of its risk, and we can help by allowing the private sector to do what it does best, compete for customers by offering better service, lower prices, and more comprehensive coverage.

 

I understand some of my colleagues think competition will destabilize the NFIP.

 

First, we need to be clear that the NFIP in its currents state is beleaguered, it is not stable, not sustainable. Reforms must be made.

 

Second, I’d urge my colleagues to recognize that by forcing nearly all of the flood risk in this nation into a single, government-run insurance program, we contribute to the NFIP’s bloated and unstable risk portfolio. 

 

So the NFIP needs some help, and consumers need competition. More coverage options will help make flood insurance an attractive investment for everyone, thereby reducing the number of uninsured homes.

 

With the NFIP alone, our constituents are severely limited. For example, an NFIP policy only covers up to $250,000 of damages to a residential home. In addition, an NFIP policy does not cover a homeowner’s displaced living expenses. In the case of a business, an NFIP policy doesn’t provide the all-important businesses interruption coverage.

 

While the NFIP is limited in what their policies can cover, the private sector is not.

 

In addition to offering more comprehensive policies, the private sector will provide more incentives for property owners to invest in mitigation and resiliency. Ultimately, this increased emphasis on mitigation will benefit homeowners and taxpayers alike. 

Congress has agreed on these points for years now, and the language we are passing today is really the culmination of an effort to develop private sector flood insurance options that began 5 years ago with the passage of Biggert-Waters.

 

In fact, the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, during the mark up of this bill - where it passed unanimously (58-0) - said this effort would give our constituents some real choice, and was quote “meaningful compromise, the kind of compromise that reasonable people can engage in.”

 

Well, the bill is all here. It’s substantively the same bill most Members supported in the past. Here’s our chance to provide consumers with real choice in flood insurance. We must seize this opportunity!

 

The private flood language in this bill is supported by a number of stakeholders, from the Realtors, to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, to a broad coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, housing organizations, and mitigation advocates.

 

This bill is the first step toward righting the NFIP ship, and I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting its passage.

 

Before I yield, I ask unanimous consent to submit for the record a letter from 15 major insurance, housing, and banking trade associations in support of the private flood insurance provisions in H.R. 3823.

 

Thank you. In closing, I would like to thank Chairman Brady, Shuster, and Hensarling for their work bringing this bill to the floor.

 

I hope that we can act quickly to put it on the President’s desk, and provide relief for victims of Hurricane’s Harvey, Maria, and Irma. Thank you. 

 

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