Senate Takes First Step on Flood Insurance, Agent Licensing Bill

January 27, 2014

The Senate voted 86-13 early Monday evening to proceed with debate on a bill to both delay some flood insurance premium increases and establish an optional national registry for insurance agent and broker licensing.

That procedural vote means there could be a Senate vote on the actual bill, S.1926, later this week.

However the prospects of the bill ever becoming law are uncertain, given opposition in the House leadership and, as of yesterday, by the White House.

The bill would delay the implementation of certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and create the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J., chief sponsor of the flood insurance rollback, hailed the procedural vote and called for the Senate to pass the bill.

“This legislation simply provides temporary relief to a targeted group of property owners who played by the rules and are now poised to see their most valuable asset become worthless, all through no fault of their own,” Menendez said in a statement.

“Just as important as what this bill would do, it’s also important to note what this bill would NOT do,” Menendez said. “This legislation would not stop the phase out of taxpayer-funded subsidies for vacation homes and homes that have been substantially damaged.  It would not stop the phase out of taxpayer-funded subsidies for properties that have been repetitively flooded, including the 1% riskiest properties that account for over one-third of all claims.  It would not encourage new construction in environmentally sensitive or flood prone areas.  And it would not stop most of the important reforms included in Biggert-Waters.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D.-La., who has been pushing hard to delay Biggert-Waters, also welcomed the vote.

“Although it has taken longer than any of us wanted, today’s vote in the Senate to begin debate on our bipartisan bill brings us one step closer to providing relief to homeowners who played by the rules and need affordable flood insurance,” Landrieu said in a statement. “I remain hopeful that in the coming days, with the facts on our side, continued support of our constituents and the backing of business groups, this bill to delay the most dangerous parts of Biggert-Waters will pass. Nothing less than the American Dream -if you work hard and play by the rules you can have a secure future-is at stake.”

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, applauded the Senate for moving to deconstruct the reform program she helped create while blaming “poor implementation” for the problems it has caused.

“This key vote in the U.S. Senate is a clear indication of the strong, bipartisan support for comprehensive legislation that will fix the problems with the National Flood Insurance Program,” Waters said in a statement.

“While flood insurance reform was well intended, FEMA’s [Federal Emergency Management Agency's] poor implementation, inaccurate mapping and incomplete data have led to unreasonable and unimaginable increases in premiums. Today 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,” Waters said.

The licensing section of the bill is a priority for independent agents and other insurance groups. It was linked to the flood bill because its supporters feared it would not otherwise make it to the floor for a vote.

The 13 senators voting not to proceed with debate were:

  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Coburn (R-OK)
  • Corker (R-TN)
  • Crapo (R-ID)
  • Enzi (R-WY)
  • Heller (R-NV)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Lee (R-UT)
  • Moran (R-KS)
  • Paul (R-KY)
  • Risch (R-ID)
  • Roberts (R-KS)
  • Shelby (R-AL)

 

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