House Bill 735 Bill Signing

BUCKS COUNTYDecember 4, 2023 − Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) and Representative Perry Warren (D-31) joined Governor Josh Shapiro today in Yardley Borough for the bill signing of House Bill 735, establishing a task force to address rising flood insurance premiums.

“After a devastating storm this summer dropped a month’s worth of rain in a span of just two hours and flash flooding swept cars off of roads, and flooded homes, schools, and businesses in Bucks County, my Administration was on the ground immediately, providing assistance to rescue and recovery efforts, set up detours, and keep people safe,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “Chaired by Insurance Commissioner Mike Humphreys, the task force established by HB 735 will bring together leaders from my Administration and the Legislature to closely review the needs of our communities who are at an increased risk of flooding. They’ll identify the kinds of programs that would make sure flood insurance is accessible and affordable for the Pennsylvanians who need it – and recommend the best courses of action our Commonwealth can take to help increase the number of Pennsylvanians protected by flood insurance.”

“Eight years ago, I introduced what was then HB 1299 which was the precursor for HB 735, to help Pennsylvanians living in flood zones with 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.  I want to thank my friend and successor in the House Rep. Warren for continuing the work on this issue with me.  This is an important step toward helping Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth find relief from rising flood insurance premiums.”

The bill signing took place at the Yardley Inn, a restaurant in Yardley Borough that has been flooded several times.  The building is set to begin renovations in early 2025 to move the restaurant further back from the Delaware River and elevate the foundation to prevent future flooding.

“Thank you to Governor Shapiro for coming to Yardley to sign House Bill 735 into law as Act 22 of 2023,” Representative Warren said. “I reintroduced this bill when I was first elected in 2017, it passed in the House in the 2019-2020 Session, and it was the first bill passed by the House Insurance Committee in 2021-2022, but it did not get across the finish line. This year, through the collective efforts of Senator Santarsiero, the House Insurance Committee, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and me, and in the wake of the devastating flooding in Upper Makefield and Lower Makefield in July, the bill passed in the House and Senate and has become law with Governor Shapiro’s signature.”

Reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program that Congress passed in 2012, called the Biggert-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.

HB 735 establishes 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.

Senator Santarsiero introduced Senate Bill 442, the Senate companion bill, which passed out of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee earlier this year.

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 establishment of a flood insurance task force is a proactive step towards ensuring homeowners and businesses in Bucks County can more easily recover from future flash floods,” said Bucks County Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie. “My fellow Commissioners and I are committed to working closely with Governor Shapiro, state and local officials, insurance providers, and our dedicated emergency services personnel towards improving our response to these devastating floods.”

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.

Representative Warren added, “As Vice-Chair of the House Insurance Committee, this new law combines the committee’s efforts to contain insurance costs while expanding insurance coverage, with our efforts to reduce and contain the cost of flooding. Senator Santarsiero and I worked with our local communities to forward this legislation, and Governor Shapiro coming to Yardley to sign the bill evinces the positive impact Act 23 will have for our communities. I look forward to the recommendations of the task force.”

Senator Santarsiero continued, “Communities along Pennsylvania’s rivers, creeks and streams have been devastated by plummeting property values due to unaffordable flood insurance premiums.  While it was meetings with local constituents that initiated this legislation, the benefits of this legislation will help countless citizens across the Commonwealth.”