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Senate Clears Bill to Avert Flood-Insurance Premium Rises

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate cleared a measure to avert steep flood-insurance premium increases for property owners in coastal states including Florida, Louisiana and New Jersey.

The Senate passed the bill, H.R. 3370, on a 72-22 vote today, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature. The House passed it on March 4. The bill would limit increases to 15 percent of the average rate in a particular flood zone or 18 percent for each individual policy.

The rate increases were mandated by a 2012 law intended to cut the flood-insurance fund’s $24 billion debt by charging premiums more closely reflecting the true risk. Proponents of the measure said the law caused steep increases that middle-class homeowners can’t afford.

Congress was under pressure to enact rate relief after administrators of the National Flood Insurance Program began sending notices of policy increases to property owners.

The version passed by the House was a compromise by Republican leaders and Democrats led by California Representative Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

The measure will “correct an unintended consequence” of the 2012 law, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson said in floor debate.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who is in a close re-election battle in flood-prone Louisiana, said the effort to pass the measure is “about listening to our constituents and responding to them when they have a great need.”

2012 Changes

Landrieu’s Republican opponent, Representative Bill Cassidy, was a sponsor of the House measure. House Republican leaders said they wouldn’t consider a Senate proposal because it didn’t preserve enough of the revisions enacted for the flood-insurance program two years ago. Critics of the bill passed today said it went even further in rolling back the 2012 changes.

Under the agreement to hold the vote, Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee was promised a vote on his legislation that would prohibit premium refunds on policies for second homes. It would require House approval and Obama’s signature to become law. That measure is S. 2137.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net Laurie Asseo

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