Flood insurance relief bill delayed... again

7:38 PM, Feb 26, 2014   |    comments
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Tampa, FL -- Flood insurance relief will have to wait at least another week.

The U.S. House of Representatives was expected to vote on its version of a relief bill on Wednesday, but it was abruptly postponed after Democrats tried to make some amendments.

Each day or week that passes is bad news for our area. It prolongs the uncertainty in our fragile real estate market leaving people in flood zones having trouble, in many cases, selling their property, as long as this issue goes unresolved.

The House version of the bill -- designed to address unintended consequences of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act -- was all set for a vote, when Democrats asked for at least two amendments that "could not be done overnight," according to Committee on Financial Services Spokesman Christopher Spina.

"But that shouldn't require you to punt it to next week," said Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg).

Castor says Democrats would like to see flood insurance relief extended to commercial buildings too, like mom and pop businesses along our beaches. They also want FEMA to review of flood maps to make sure they're accurate. 

Those are issues which Castor feels could have been handled in a day... not a week.

"But in the end, if the Republicans don't agree to that provision for small business owners, we're going to press ahead anyway," said Castor.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says the delay is unfortunate.

Scott called upon President Obama to issue an executive order killing Biggert-Waters, which was designed to fund a FEMA shortfall in part with much higher, non-federally subsidized flood insurance premiums.

"The rate increases are just staggering to families. They can't pay it," said Gov. Scott. "So, the President needs to act. He said he wanted to use his pen. This is something he can take action on right now."

But Congresswoman Castor says the measure, created by Congress, should be fixed by Congress to at least grandfather in homeowners who could then keep their current flood insurance rates.

Asked if, in its current form, there are enough votes to pass the House bill now, Castor's answer was, "Yes. Yes, I do [think so]."

Even then, an additional obstacle may be the super-majority vote that Republicans are now calling for to pass the House version of the bill. That's two-thirds of Congress, rather than just a simple majority.

Castor says she doesn't understand why they've added that extra hurdle. 

If they take a vote and it passes next week, it's still not quite a done deal. The bill would then go back to the Senate, which has already passed its own version, and the two bills would have to be reconciled into something that both houses of Congress can sign-off on.

A source close to the negotiations tells 10 News that House Representatives are running their version of the bill past key Senators to make sure there are no glaring conflicts.

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