Louisianians may find solace from impending increases in flood insurance rates as Sen. Mary Landrieu’s bill to prevent those hikes heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration at its Thursday meeting.
Landrieu chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee of Appropriations, which passed the bill to the larger body Tuesday.
The measures are included in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for next fiscal year. Called the Strengthen, Modernize and Reform the National Flood Insurance Program, or SMART NFIP, the bill would postpone parts of last year’s Biggert-Waters Act.
Biggert-Waters, named for the authors of the legislation, was an attempt at reforming the National Flood Insurance Program. That act, in conjunction with new flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), would raise rates beyond affordability in several coastal Louisiana parishes.
Landrieu’s bill allows for a year grace-period for cases to be “grandfathered in” with lower rates.
“These are homes and businesses that were built to code and were subsequently placed into higher risk areas on a flood map,” Landrieu said in a press release.
Some of these rates could take effect in October. Others start in late 2014.
Federal Emergency Management Authority’s new flood maps that don’t include federally unauthorized levees common in south Louisiana. Landrieu is also negotiating with officials that oversee the current NFIP to visit areas of Louisiana and reconsider that regulation.
“It’s a modest but right step forward until we can get some of these flood maps modified and adjusted,” Landrieu said at the subcommittee meeting.
Landrieu said Louisianians are disincentivized to build levees if FEMA doesn’t consider them when drawing flood maps.
“This delay has no cost to the federal government for one year,” Landrieu explained, “and it will allow us the opportunity to perhaps make some adjustments to Biggert-Waters at no cost or limited cost to the taxpayer that will help some of our coastal communities continue to thrive and grow.”
Landrieu’s bill does include, “approximately $10 million over the President’s budget to modernize flood maps to help ensure they fully reflect local investments in flood protection infrastructure,” according to a press release.
The Appropriations bill that houses Landrieu’s measures also contains benefits for other areas of the country. Senators from areas along the nation’s northern border praised the removal of toll-booths at some border crossings, hoping the measure would spur trade.
The Biggert-Waters Act was housed inside a larger transportation bill that also housed the RESTORE Act, Landrieu’s bill from last year that dedicated portions of oil spill settlement funds to coastal states. Senators had to vote the package up or down, rather than its individual parts, the same method they'll use to consider this bill.