If you live, as I do, in one of the nation's many housing markets that stand to take a beating at the hands of the well-intentioned Biggert-Waters flood reform act, news that the Senate passed a well-meaning flood reform fix on Friday seemed like Groundhog Day come early.
Rarely has so much hell been paved by so many good intentions.
This latest legislative bobble to be tossed like Mardi Gras beads to an anxious public would delay those heart-stopping flood rate increases on older, subsidized properties for four years while the Federal Emergency Management Agency verifies the accuracy of its new flood maps. It also would grandfather-in low rates for homeowners mapped into a flood zone for the first time or placed into higher-risk zones by remapping.
Insert huge asterisk: *if the House also approves it.
Deju vu all over again
Presumably, the Senate had to tag its bill with the warm and fuzzy title "Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014" because to call it the "'Homeowner Flood Insurance Reform' Reform Act" would have sounded facetious, not to mention redundant.
Please excuse those of us in the line of fire if we don't burst into Seahawks-12th-man-style hysteria over this latest turn of events. Truth be told, our collective response more closely resembles Bill Murray's weatherman reaching incredulously for the morning alarm clock in "Groundhog Day." We have that sinking feeling that we're stuck in a time loop, and that at any moment, nerdy Ned Ryerson is going to sidle up and attempt to sell us life insurance. Again.
And indeed, we have been here before -- just days ago, when Congress slipped a contingency Mardi Gras necklace into its $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that would essentially tie FEMA's hands by preventing enforcement of the flood rate hikes through September.
The battle lines
If you're keeping track, here's who favors and who opposes the latest Senate gesture:
For: Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (or "Big I"); American Bankers Association; National Association of Professional Insurance Agents.
Opposed: National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies; Property Casualty Insurers Association of America; SmarterSafer.org, a coalition of environmental taxpayer, housing and insurance groups.
Oh, and while President Barack Obama stopped short of threatening to veto this warm-fuzzy, he's no fan of this fix either.
Not that it stands much chance of actually reaching his desk. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made perfectly clear that flood reform ranks well below euthanizing puppies on the House to-do list this term.
And so we wait, caught in a government-gridlock Groundhog Day, with little chance of escape in this, an election year. Meanwhile, middle-class homeowners can't sell their homes, looky-loos are looking elsewhere and somehow it all feels like 2009 all over again.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.
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