Jim Donelon, Louisiana’s insurance commissioner, said he hoped the lawsuit would bring the issue threatening the southern and northeastern United States to light for other of the country’s policymakers.
“I think the lawsuit can only help bring Congress’ attention to just how serious the states are about this problem,” Donelon said.
The suit was originally filed by Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, and has already been joined by Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Massachusetts—all of whom filed “friend of the court” briefs stating the need for an alternative to the rate increases meant to keep NFIP solvent.
Michael Hecht, chief executive officer with the business coalition Greater New Orleans Inc., said the lawsuit is a common sense way to address the issue.
“I think it’s important that we consider legal options because some people are essentially having to forfeit their assets without any compensation,” Hecht said. “There is a legal aspect to be explored when individuals have suffered economic injury, having done nothing wrong themselves.”
The increased support for the lawsuit against FEMA comes as legislative effort to delay flood rate hikes meet snags in both the House and Senate.
The House bill to delay the increases met opposition in the Financial Services Committee, which supports the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012—the initial legislation that triggered the premium hikes. In the Senate, attempts to call a quick floor vote on the matter were quashed as both Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to change the policy.
The disappointments underscore legislators’ original optimism that a flood insurance reform bill would be passed by Thanksgiving.
Mississippi’s lawsuit against the federal government has another supporter. The Louisiana Department of Insurance filed a legal brief supporting the suit last week, which seeks to stall steep increases in national flood insurance premiums the suit claims will make homes and businesses unaffordable for their owners.