La. lawmakers urge Congress to delay flood insurance rate increases

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 23, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 23 at 7:01 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana lawmakers are turning up the volume in their opposition to expensive changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Wednesday, legislative insurance committees heard emotional testimony at the state capitol about the potential effects of sky-rocketing rate increases.

Lawmakers, business owners and rate-payers packed a committee room to discuss growing concerns about the NFIP.

Recent changes to put the program on sounder financial footing after billions of dollars in claims from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and last year's Superstorm Sandy could mean rate increases of up to 4000 percent for some in higher risk areas.

"My constituents are telling me that these rates in a lot of cases, they'll be paying more for their flood insurance then they're paying for their house note," said state Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-Chalmette.

State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles is an insurance broker in southwest Louisiana. He complained about what he called a "cavalier attitude" by a NFIP representative.

"The lady that I had on the phone yesterday told me, well sir maybe your client doesn't need to live so close to the water," said Johns. "Well, that's outrages."

Business leaders testified it's not just Louisiana facing potential skyrocketing rates.

"It's New York with Sandy. It's the flood plain in DC. It's the whole coast. It's Florida. It's Tampa. It's also as we've seen recently, places you would never even consider would flood like Boulder, Colorado," said GNO, Inc. CEO Michael Hecht.

Parish presidents complain the new flood maps don't reflect steps local governments have taken to mitigate risk on projects built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"Some of the damage being done will not be able to be repaired," said Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet. "I don't know what's going to happen to those young couples, if they'll lose their houses or what. This law has to be fixed."

"If this is going to be allowed to go unchecked and unamended, we're not going to be able to afford buy insurance," said Jefferson Parish President John Young. "This is a classic case of a law passed with unintended consequences."

One parish president told the committee how changes to the National Flood Insurance Program are already effecting home sales in her community, which was hit hard by last year's Hurricane Isaac.

"There was one home that fell through at the purchase, once the purchaser realized that their flood insurance rates were going to be in excess of $5,000," said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom.

There is now a move in Congress to at least postpone the increases until 2 years after FEMA completes an affordability study.

This was the first flood insurance meeting involving Louisiana lawmakers.

They now hope to get on the same page with the state Congressional delegation and others opposing the rate increases.

More hearings are expected.

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