Monday, June 25, 2012

National Flood Insurance Program on the Week's Senate Agenda

This week the Senate is scheduled to consider S. 1940, a bill reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (or "NFIP"); a task necessary before the NFIP expires at the end of July. The bill, sponsored by South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson (D), was passed by the Senate Banking Committee unanimously on September 8, 2011. A Senate procedural vote last Thursday to move on to the bill effectively placed full consideration of the legislation on the Senate's calendar today (Monday), when the Chamber will continue consideration of its motion to proceed, shortly after reconvening at 2:00 PM (Eastern).

On May 30, the House voted to pass H.R.5740, the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act, by a voice vote, concurring with an earlier Senate action, and sending the measure on to the President for his signature. That action extended the authority of the NFIP from May 31 until July 31, 2012, and gave Congress two more months in its years-long process of deciding on a long-term reauthorization and reform strategy for the debt-burdened NFIP; a program that provides insurance for homes and businesses in areas subject to flooding. The NFIP has been subject to legislative impasse on this issue since 2008, the last time a NFIP re-authorization bill was passed. Since then, Congress has passed 17 short-term extensions to keep the program solvent. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is pushing to fast-track consideration of the flood insurance legislation so the Senate can begin negotiating with the House over competing versions of a five-year NFIP reauthorization and reform. The House passed its version of the flood insurance legislation, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 1309), last summer.

Among the Senate bill's provisions is one that would direct FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the program) to incorporate best available estimates regarding changes in future flooding risks into its floodplain mapping efforts, effectively bringing climate change and global warming into the flood forecasting process. The House bill does not include any such flood risk change language. Apart from that climate change language and Senate wording that requires homeowners living behind levees to buy flood insurance, the House and Senate bills are very similar, with each mandating higher policyholder insurance rates in the more flood risk-prone areas, updating mapping, and increasing income into the over-prescribed and debt-ridden flood insurance program. Despite the similarities, some House members may target the Senate's climate change language for elimination, should it survive in the Senate bill.

No comments:

Post a Comment