Our Views: Health care, tax issues huge; but flood insurance may be even bigger for Louisiana | Our Views

Discussions about flood-elevation mapping technology, replacement-cost value methodologies, and international reinsurance markets sound pretty obscure to most people.

But weather disasters in south Louisiana, including an epic flood in the Baton Rouge area last year, underscore how important the particulars of the National Flood Insurance Program can be.

Ask any homeowner with flood insurance. Or better yet, ask those who did not have it when floodwaters rose so rapidly in the Amite River basin and whole communities were engulfed last summer.

Louisiana’s huge financial interest in a sound flood insurance program, including provisions that are friendly to the taxpayers who underwrite NFIP, underscores why it’s vital that our delegation in Congress follow the issue closely.

One of those leading the last significant change to the NFIP law was U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Parish Republican who is now out of the hospital and in rehab recovering from a vicious attack on members of Congress and their aides in suburban Washington.

But both of Louisiana’s senators and other Louisiana members of the House are on the case, as is state Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is pushing a reauthorization bill with one of our state’s new allies, U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y. After the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, New York City and its neighboring regions clearly have a more powerful understanding of the importance of flood insurance.

The law authorizing the program expires Sept. 30. Donelon favors a reauthorization for seven to 10 years, instead of the traditional five, but action by both houses of Congress will be necessary before then, meaning a short-term extension might be in the legislative cards.

Closely watching the action, as involved in detail as it is, will be a national coalition of state and local groups that has long been a major project of Greater New Orleans Inc., the business organization.

About 410,000 policies in Louisiana represent only part of those who need insurance, as those without it in last year’s floods are the most recent examples.

Because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and other events like August’s floods, Louisiana has been one of the prime beneficiaries of a national flood insurance guarantee. It is critical to continue it, hopefully for the longest possible term.

The majority of NFIP policies are in Florida, Texas and Louisiana. Obviously, just as homes and businesses were flooded last year in Louisiana that had never flooded before, many more people ought to buy the insurance but don’t. One of the key issues will be making policies available, perhaps by allowing private companies to write them, so that more people will sign up and spread the risk around.

It’s an issue that should be closely watched, even as other matters — health insurance, taxes and so on — tend to grab most of the headlines.

As the National Flood Insurance program is $25 billion in debt, Congress is eyeing an overha…


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