Pinellas News

Nelson says Senate to OK delay in big flood insurance rate hike

CLEARWATER — In town for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday he had some good news and some bad news about flood insurance.

The good news, Democrat Nelson said, is the Senate is poised to pass a bill that would postpone the astronomic flood insurance rates in the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, which attempts to make up the billions in shortfalls to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“We will pass a bill that will delay for four years the rate hikes, and we will pass that a week from today,” Nelson said. “We believe that we have the 60 votes that are required to break the filibuster.”

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, and other local lawmakers have worked at the state level to protect homeowners since the Biggert-Waters Act’s passing in July 2012.

Quick action by the state is crucial for about 50,000 homeowners in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and thousands more across Florida whose policies are affected by significant premium changes in the National Flood Insurance Program, Brandes is attributed with saying in a Tampa Tribune report from Dec. 17.

Nelson said Monday that it has taken months for Senate leadership to get both sides of the aisle to agree.

“I think the [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] is intent that we’re going to have a vote,” he said.

The bad news, he said, is that he can’t say what will happen in the House, calling House leadership “recalcitrant.”

“Then the question is, what the House will do?”

Nelson was visiting the North Greenwood Aquatic Center for a King day celebration.

In addition to flood insurance, Nelson heralded the arrival of a D.C.-based team to help fix problems with Florida’s new unemployment claims website, CONNECT.

Since its launch in October, the site has been riddled with glitches that have caused thousands of Floridians’ unemployment claims to be denied. Last week, Nelson asked U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to take up the issue.

“People that have been desperate for a little financial help to tide them over. People have suffered,” Nelson said.