Florida officials plan to file a brief in support of Mississippi’s lawsuit against the federal government in an attempt to block flood insurance rate hikes called for under recent reform legislation.
Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi said that they would file the amicus brief in a suit brought by Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Chaney is suing the U.S. government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to block the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
The Biggert-Waters reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program include new maps that substantially increased the geographic areas where homeowners must have flood insurance. In addition, the reforms phase-out premium subsidies on properties built before 1974, on new policies, and on second homes. That provision alone affects over 250,000 Florida homeowners.
Chaney is calling for FEMA, which runs the NFIP, to delay those provisions until more studies can be conducted on their potential impact on homeowners.
Bondi said given the impact the NFIP reforms could have on homeowners across the state, she felt it was imperative to act. She also noted her office is working with the Office of Insurance Regulation to explore other means to protect homeowners from the coming rate hikes.
“We’ve got to do everything we can do to fight it,” said Bondi.
OIR officials and state lawmakers have discussed the possibility of creating a private sector solution to providing affordable flood insurance.
Scott sought to pin the blame for the rate hikes on President Barack Obama for not instructing FEMA to delay the reforms. FEMA chief Craig Fugate has told Congress he does not have the authority to act and it is up to Congress. But Scott nevertheless took aim at Obama.
“The president can lead and he has not led in this area,” said Scott. “Families are going to lose homes because the president signed a bill that didn’t make any sense.”
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater compared the NFIB reforms to the Affordable Care Act, which has been heavily criticized by Republican officials.
“Regrettably, I think we can say this is the second thing they have passed without knowing what was in it,” said Atwater. “There is now a greater chance that Floridians will lose their homes due to the effect of the reforms than a flood.”
Congress has made moves to delay the NFIP reforms with the House having already passed a one-year delay in the rate hikes. A similar bill is waiting for a full Senate vote.
Those proposals, however, have languished due to the federal government shutdown and the debate over whether to increase the country’s debt ceiling.