By MARIA RECIO
SUN HERALD WASHINGTON BUREAU
The House passed legislation 263 to 146 expanding the federal flood insurance program to include wind damage, a change inspired by the Gulf Coast region hit by Hurricane Katrina but with repercussions for all coastal areas.
The bill was bipartisan, as 218 Democrats and 45 Republicans voted for the bill, despite a White House veto threat. Only one Democrat voted against the bill, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y. There is no companion Senate bill, but House supporters are looking to House Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., who has been generally supportive of the "multi-peril" insurance approach.
The House vote makes good on promises made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to the Mississippi Gulf to help restore the economy by staving off lengthy insurance disputes.
The Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007 would enable policyholders of the flood insurance program to purchase wind policies, as well as making reforms in the overall program.
In an emotional speech, Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, author of the provision adding wind coverage to the flood insurance plan, recounted his personal experience after Katrina.
"A little over two years ago, the nation's worst disaster struck," said Taylor. He described the devastation to the Mississippi Gulf and the complete loss of his oceanfront Bay St. Louis home and that of Lott's Pascagoula home.
"Between my house and Sen. Lott's house, there are maybe 40 miles and only a handful of houses were left standing," he said.
Thanking the many people and sectors who helped Katrina victims, Taylor left no doubt as to his motivation behind the bill:
"About the only group that didn't try to help the people of South Mississippi were the insurance industry."
Taylor and Lott sued their insurer, State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance Co. and settled earlier this year. More than 500 South Mississippi lawsuits are pending in federal court.
Read more about this story in Friday's edition of the Sun Herald .
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