Boustany backing flood insurance change
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said he supports the House Republican leadership decision to schedule a vote next week on easing the impact of flood insurance changes on thousands of Louisiana homeowners.
“I expect the House version will be similar if not identical to the Senate version that passed,” Boustany said while attending a marine demonstration at Swiftships on Tuesday. “The bottom line is that the legislation will give us four years of time in which we can work to reform” the Biggert-Waters Act.
The Senate passed legislation on Jan. 30 that delays Biggert-Waters by four years with a bipartisan 67-32 vote.
Since the law went into effect last October, thousands of Americans, many in Louisiana, have faced rate hikes in flood insurance premiums. About 480,000 Louisiana homes and businesses have federal flood insurance.
Those who backed the 2012 passage of Biggert-Waters said that homeowners, businesses and camp owners should pay actual risk-based rates for flood insurance without the federal government subsidizing those premiums.
After the Senate passed its version, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she got President Barack Obama to discuss what she called “unaffordable flood insurance premiums.”
“The bottom line,” Landrieu said, “is that he confirmed in front of all the Senate Democrats — all but one of whom voted for the legislation — that he would not veto the bill and that he understood how important it was to all of us to get it through.”
Landrieu said in a news release that she told the president she and other lawmakers are willing to work with him to make the flood insurance program more solvent. She has advocated for coastal restoration programs, funded in large part from offshore royalty payments for oil and gas production and from Clean Water Act fines from the BP spill, to strengthen wetlands that provide natural barriers to flooding, she said in the release.
Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, voted for the Senate legislation and said Louisiana’s House members are “very, very aggressively at work” trying to build support for similar legislation in the House.
On Feb. 12, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House will consider a modified version of the Senate bill and thanked two Louisiana representatives (Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and Steve Scalise, R-New Orleans) among others for their help.
Cantor said, “The House will consider a version of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act the week of Feb. 24th, … The Senate bill irresponsibly removes much needed reforms and imposes additional costs on taxpayers. The House will act to protect the flood insurance program but also protect homeowners from unreasonable and unrealistic premium increases.”
Boustany said he expects any difference in the House bill would not pose a delay in getting a version worked out that the two chambers can agree upon.
Landrieu welcomed the House leadership’s apparent support.
“Leader Cantor’s recent engagement is a positive development,” Landrieu said. “But there is no agreement until (everyone) has a chance to look under the hood to see how, and if, the Cantor concept works. It must provide the immediate relief, comprehensive reform and the affordability protections currently endorsed by more than 230 Republicans and Democrats in the House.”
After months of silence, Gov. Bobby Jindal, earlier this week, came out in support of delaying the rate hikes. He wrote to leaders of Congress to ask that they try to delay the increases and look for a way to address the situation with less pain for homeowners.
“Better, more fiscally responsible solutions are available,” Jindal said. Cutting the flood insurance program’s costs is “a laudable goal” but any rate hike is “irrational at this point,” he said.
While partisanship is alive and well, and not necessarily a bad thing, Congress is beginning to show it can work together in bipartisan ways to get legislation passed, Boustany said. Addressing the issues in the flood insurance program is one of several recent examples he gave.
“We have been able to pass a bipartisan farm bill and we are close to a water bill in this session,” Boustany said. “We have had three years of deficit reduction, we passed a budget for 2014 and are working on the outline of a 2015 budget.”
It is important that Congress work to get “the economy growing again” and work needs to be done on European and Asian trade agreements, Boustany said.
On the subject of immigration reform, Boustany said strong border security measures need to be implemented along with a better visa work program regarding jobs “that can’t be filled by American workers.”
One of the first solutions to working through the problem of illegal aliens is figuring out who they are, Boustany said.