It’s almost time. After seventeen (count ‘em–17) short-term extensions, almost a half dozen lapses in the program, and tons of political wrangling, a flood insurance reform bill–a real one–is going to come to the Senate floor as soon as tomorrow. The House has already passed a bill. Given the enormously slow pace at which much of the Senate moves, it’s impossible to say what will happen for sure. But everything I’m hearing and everything I know suggest that the bill is overwhelmingly likely to pass by a large margin. Since there are no major differences with the bill the House passed last year, furthermore, it’s equally likely that the bill will go to conference and be presented to the President before the program lapses at the end of July.
Although it isn’t going to include the private flood insurance pilot programs I would have liked to see, the bill is still a major free market and environmental victory: it raises rates for people living in the most dangerous areas, vastly reduces the chances that the program will need its $20.77 billion borrowing authority raised, promotes conservation, allows for the purchase of private reinsurance, and improves mapping. It’s not a total fix but, at minimum, it will make the flood program sustainable in the medium term. At most, I feel, this bill may set the stage for allowing private insurers to take over some or all flood insurance policies. It’s a good bill, a triumph for the environment, and a victory for taxpayers.