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Florida editorial roundup | The Bellingham Herald online slo

Source:sites edit:casino time:2017-12-01

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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Nov. 28

The Ledger of Lakeland on an act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives designed to update and upgrade the flood insurance program:

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Hurricane season ends on Thursday, and we say good riddance. The misery visited upon Florida by Hurricane Irma — as well as that wrought in Texas by Hurricane Harvey — made us even more appreciative of our state's decade-long lull between major storm events.

But the storms of '17 may lead Congress to support an important and much-needed change in responding to these events, and the effects of other severe weather episodes, if the Senate can be convinced to go along.

Two weeks ago the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which was designed to update and upgrade the nation's flood insurance program — and which included provisions championed by Republican Congressman Dennis Ross of Lakeland.

Specifically, Ross' contribution to the final package would grant latitude for private insurers to enter the flood insurance market. It's a much-needed reform to a beleaguered program. The Senate should retain Ross' idea as it debates the House measure.

Flood insurance has been a government monopoly since the program was created in 1968. While the government mandates coverage for landowners in flood-prone areas, mortgage companies may also require landowners outside such zones to purchase insurance.

Though handled by private companies — about 85 firms issue policies — the federal government is the primary underwriter for the 5 million policies now issued across the United States. About 1.8 million policies were issued in Florida, the most of any state.

The problem is that Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) plunged the program deep into debt. Today, the program is more than $30 billion in the red, and operates at an annual loss of $1.4 billion, according to the House Financial Services Committee.

Trying to cover that shortfall necessitated more government borrowing and, as of earlier this year, rate increases.

Yet, additionally, the government artificially suppressed the cost of insurance by surveying the market through the broader lens of average loss within the flood zone rather than analyzing each individual property, as a private insurer would do. The insurance industry estimated a few years ago that premiums were about half of what they would be in a privatized market.

Ross' language, which was co-drafted by Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, broadens the private market. It allows companies to write policies if they can meet the government's coverage criteria.

Critics assert introducing profit-seeking private firms into this program would jack up rates, particularly for middle- and low-income homeowners who can least afford it.

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