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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1309, Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. BIGGERT. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule for H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011.

I would like to thank Mr. Sessions for introducing and managing this rule. I would also like to thank Rules Committee Chairman Dreier and the leadership for scheduling floor time.

On May 13, the Financial Services Committee favorably reported, as has been said, the Flood Insurance Reform Act by a unanimous vote of 54-0. This bill is important and reflects the hard work and bipartisan support of the Financial Services Committee. It would reauthorize for 5 years the National Flood Insurance Program, the NFIP, and enact a series of reforms designed to improve NFIP's financial stability, reduce the burden on taxpayers, and explore ways to increase private market participation.

To improve NFIP's financial stability, the bill phases in actuarially sound rates for policyholders. In doing so, it will help to shore up NFIP and allow it to pay down its $17.75 billion debt to the taxpayer. It also increases the minimum deductibles for properties while at the same time giving homeowners more flexibility on how they can pay for their flood insurance. According to the CBO, the combined effect of these and other changes would be to bring in an additional $4.2 billion of net income to the NFIP over the next 10 years.

Perhaps most importantly, H.R. 1309 eliminates a barrier to the development of a private flood insurance market and puts us on a path toward a long-term plan for flood insurance that eliminates taxpayer risk.

First, it requires lenders to accept non-NFIP-backed flood insurance coverage provided by a private entity if that coverage meets all the same requirements as NFIP-backed flood insurance.

Second, FEMA is required to solicit bids from the private sector and report to Congress on the cost to the private sector, not to the taxpayer, of bearing the risk of flood insurance.

Finally, the bill addresses many of the concerns that Members have raised with us about new maps, especially as they relate to dam and levee decertifications. This bill allows newly mapped communities facing higher rates to annually, and for up to 3 years, request that FEMA suspend the requirement to purchase flood insurance while they work to construct or fix their flood protection systems.

With the NFIP's authorization set to expire on September 30, it is critical that the House act to pass this bill as soon as possible. Doing so will give the House and Senate time to begin a dialogue and to shape a commonsense reform measure. In short, we fully intend to avoid a recurrence of what happened in the last Congress, which was when the program lapsed, causing turmoil in a recovering housing market, and was simply extended without reforms. Congress cannot continue to kick the can down the road.

With that, again, I thank Mr. Sessions and the members of the Rules Committee. I would also like to thank all of the Members from both sides of the aisle who helped to craft this bill. I thank my colleagues on the Financial Services Committee for their work on this bill, especially Ms. Waters, Mrs. Capito, Mr. Garrett, Mr. Dold, and Mr. Stivers, who are original cosponsors of this bipartisan bill.

I urge my colleagues to support the rule for H.R. 1309.

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