Congress dome file

The Capitol Dome of the Capitol Building at sunrise, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: WX101

WASHINGTON — Work is underway on a 5-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program in the U.S. House this week as lawmakers try to find common ground on long-term stability for the program after years of stop-gap extensions.

The House Financial Services Committee is expected to hold its first hearing on a bipartisan proposal supported by the committee's leaders.

Committee Chair Maxine Waters, D-California, said Tuesday she hopes the months of work she and Rep. Patrick McHenry, the ranking Republican on the committee who hails from North Carolina, put in "can finally bring long-term stability to the millions of homeowners, renters and businesses that rely on the NFIP."

There are no members of the Louisiana delegation on the Financial Services panel.

McHenry echoed Waters in calling the proposal a "really good, bipartisan" plan.

“I know it’s not without compromise on (the Democrats) side, and not without compromise on our side, but we’ve got a better result," he said.

NFIP, which provides flood coverage for half a million policyholders in Louisiana, is set to expire at the end of September, when the latest in a string of temporary extensions runs out.

The program's last long-term extension lapsed in September 2017.

While Louisiana's U.S. senators quickly questioned whether the proposal checks off all the boxes on Louisiana's wish list, other interested parties have deemed it a compromise that could finally end the cycle of stop-gap reauthorizations while bigger issues are addressed.

“The bill in current form advances a number of the priorities that our coalition has been pushing at a fundamental level,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc., which oversees the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance. “I think this is a very encouraging development."

The proposal calls for increased funding for expanded and improved flood mapping and mitigation programs, the repeal of surcharges that have collectively cost policyholders millions, and tweaks to payment and appeals processes that have been cumbersome for some policyholders.

Hecht said his group views the proposal as a good base that can be adjusted to meet the market's needs.

“We don’t think this is a set it and forget it type of reauthorization," he said.

With bipartisan support behind the bill, the House could try to fast-track its passage if it can get support from two-thirds of the chamber after making it out of committee. It then would go to the Senate to be vetted and where it could face additional hurdles. If it isn't signed by President Donald Trump by the end of September, then another temporary extension would be needed to prevent a program lapse.


Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.