Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fate of National Flood Plain Program Reauthorization Linked to Senate FDA Bill

The fate of FEMA's National Flood Plain Program (NFIP), the authority for which expires at the end of this month, seems to hinge on an FDA bill up for Senate consideration this week.  But whether the Senate goes along with a short-term extension, or opts for a longer extension (until 2016) and reform of the NFIP depends on which (if any) FDA bill NFIP amendements are considered. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, (D-NV) has urged his colleagues to pass S 2344, a bill sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)  and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) that would extend the flood insurance program through the end of 2012.  The intent of the simple, short-term NFIP extension bill is to provide Congress breathing room to work on a long-term reauthorization bill.  However, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn has blocked attempts at a simple extension, saying, instead, that the Senate should opt now for a five-year NFIP reform bill, which among other things includes a provision to phase out subsidized insurance premiums on vacation and second homes. “We can’t afford $900 million a year in subsidies to the very wealthy in this country for their second or vacation homes,” Coburn has argued. Yesterday, Vitter introduced an FDA bill amendment more in line with Coburn's desires; one that would extend the NFIP through 2016 and make several reforms to the program (see a related article from The Hill here).

Vitter's extension and reform amendment closely tracks the provisions of a House bill passed last July 12, H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011.  Last week, the House added another NFIP bill to the mix, passing a 30-day extension measure that would keep the program running through June 30: the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act (HR 5740). HR 5740 would extend NFIP authority one additional month until June 30. The bill (introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13)) would also require FEMA and the Comptroller General to each conduct a study to assess "options, methods, and strategies for privatizing the national flood insurance program," and "for offering voluntary community-based flood insurance policy options."

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