What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Senate drops wind from insurance bill

Posted on Thu, Oct. 18, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Banking Committee approved a flood insurance reform bill Wednesday that does not include wind damage, as Gulf Coast lawmakers had hoped, after key senators decided not to offer an amendment expanding the federal program to cover wind.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., dropped their plans to amend the bill with a wind provision when it became clear that the chairman, a ranking Republican, and others from non-coastal states opposed it.

"We weren't going to get it through," said Martinez. "We're going to try and do something on the floor." The Florida Republican said that he was disappointed "but I never had my hopes extremely high."

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said during the "mark-up" of the bill that he had concerns about the costs of adding wind coverage. "The problem here is we don't know the implications of that," he said. Dodd prefers to rely on the findings of a study commission, already approved by the panel, to look at all-perils coverage.

"It's a very legitimate issue," said Dodd of expanding the program to cover wind damage. "We couldn't answer the implications of cost."

The flood insurance program had to borrow nearly $20 billion from the U.S. Treasury after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which the bill would forgive FEMA from having to repay. The flood insurance program is part of FEMA.

Sen. Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., who lobbied banking panel members, said he would continue to press for wind coverage. "We're going to assess if we can even get it up for consideration," said Lott. "I'm interested in results."

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, the prime mover behind a House-passed flood insurance reform bill that includes "multiperils" of wind and water, remained optimistic.

"That particular committee was a tough audience," said Taylor. "I think the trend is in the right direction, with support from Lott and Sen. (Thad) Cochran, the home builders, the bankers and the Realtors." Cochran is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"It's trending our way," said Taylor. "We always knew it was a fight but I'm encouraged."

The Senate bill reauthorizing the flood insurance program, approved unanimously by the banking committee, would strengthen the flood zone mapping program, forgive FEMA's $20 billion debt and institute mandatory coverage areas. The House version of the bill does not forgive the $20 billion debt.

© 2007 Sun Herald. All Rights Reserved.

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