HARRISBURG − June 28, 2023 − Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Representative Perry Warren (D-31) announced that Senate Bill 442 and House Bill 735, each of which would establish a task force to address rising flood insurance premiums, were voted unanimously out of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee yesterday.
“Eight years ago, I introduced what was then HB 1299 and today is SB 442, to help Pennsylvanians find relief from rising flood insurance premiums,” said Senator Santarsiero. “Then, as now, residents in neighborhoods along the Delaware River were facing skyrocketing flood insurance costs that threatened their ability to protect their homes and made it almost impossible for them to sell.”
Reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program that Congress passed in 2012, called the Briggert-Waters Act, phased out the federal subsidy for flood insurance costs and directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to revise its flood plain maps. Those new maps included many more homes in the flood zones and requiring flood insurance.
In late 2014 and early 2015 Senator Santarsiero held townhalls and neighborhood meetings, as well as discussions with local stakeholders and elected officials. From those meetings it became clear the best option at the state level was a task force to review the problem and identify state solutions.
SB 442 would establish the Flood Insurance Premium Assistance Task Force to explore ways to lower flood insurance premiums and incentivize communities to invest in flood prevention measures. The task force would consist of one appointee each from the Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of Banking and Securities, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, House Majority Leader, and House Minority Leader.
The task force would have the power to review and analyze existing law, procedures, practices, processes, and rules related to the administration of flood insurance. In addition, the task force would hold public hearings and accept written comments from the public.
The task force would have six months to issue a final report to include recommendations on:
- potential programs to provide flood insurance premium discounts;
- potential programs, whether through the mechanism of premium discounts or other relief, that create incentives for local governments to undertake or continue mitigation efforts;
- the implementation of necessary changes in state statutes and practices, policies and procedures relating to the administration of flood insurance;
- ways to educate the public about flooding risks and mitigation techniques;
- how to inform Pennsylvanians about flood insurance options when purchasing;
- recommendations to increase the number of flood insurance policies purchased by Pennsylvanians.
“When I was a township supervisor in Lower Makefield Township after three catastrophic floods in 2004, 2005 and 2006, we took local action implementing new engineering controls, like back flow preventers, and adopted a nationally-recognized Low Impact Development Ordinance to reduce stormwater runoff,” said Senator Santarsiero. “Those are the types of things that the state could potentially incentivize local governments to do to reduce costs for residents.”
Senator Santarsiero continued, “This is an issue that impacts Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth. Communities along Pennsylvania’s rivers, creeks and streams have been devastated by plummeting property values due to unaffordable flood insurance premiums.”
Members on both sides of the aisle echoed support for the bill noting that their constituents are also experiencing increasing premiums, devastating flooding, and the difficult financial decision of whether to buy insurance they may not be able to afford or risk financial ruin from a significant flooding event.
Representative Perry Warren, who succeeded Senator Santarsiero in the House, has continued his predecessor’s work on this issue, authoring House Bill 735. HB 735 passed the House in May and was also voted favorably out of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee.
“Our respective districts have among the most waterfront property in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Warren. “We need to create a more equitable way to tabulate flood insurance premiums, and our current system is becoming unsustainable for our neighbors who live on or near the flood plain. These bills will help create solutions.”
Either or both bills need to be passed by the Senate and sent to the House for passage before being presented to the Governor for his signature.