In late December 2011, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 2055, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act” (known as the mini-bus) into law, extending the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until May 31, 2012. The NFIP would have otherwise expired a few hours later at midnight on Dec. 23.
Although the Big “I” is grateful to Congress and President Obama for their actions in avoiding another lapse in the program, it is important to note that the work on this important issue is far from over. The next few months provide ample opportunity for Congress and the administration to work on and pass a long-term extension and reform legislation that provides the necessary certainty for consumers.
A long-term extension and reform bill, H.R. 1309, the “Flood Insurance Modernization Act,” overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives several months ago. That bill would extend the NFIP for five years, raise coverage limits so that they are indexed for inflation, remove subsidies for many of the properties, allow FEMA the option to offer business interruption and additional living expenses coverages and increase the annual cap on increased premiums from 10% to 20%. Each of these provisions is important to shore up the NFIP’s financial footing and increase the attractiveness of the program.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have introduced S.1940, the “Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act.” This legislation has many of the same provisions found in the House-passed legislation, though there are some notable differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation that will eventually need to be resolved. This bill was unanimously supported by the Senate Banking Committee late last year and the Big “I” is urging Senate leadership to bring it before the full Senate early this spring.
As the primary distribution channel for the NFIP, independent insurance agents play a vital role in the delivery of flood insurance, and the Big “I” strongly supports Congress’s efforts to both reform and stabilize this important program. The patchwork of temporary extensions and short lapses that has been common over the last several years has put a strain on the marketplace, the business community and homeowners. It is past time this critical program be given a long-term extension, and hopefully this latest short-term extension will give Congress the time to put the finishing touches on that effort.
On April 26, more than 1,000 Big “I” members will take Capitol Hill by storm to continue to make the case that Congress finally secure this long-term extension and reform (see sidebar).
Margarita Tapia (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Big “I” director of public affairs.
Big “I” to Storm Capitol Hill on April 26
This year, it’s more important than ever for each state to have a strong presence at the Big “I” Legislative Conference & Convention, April 25–27, in Washington, D.C.
On April 26, more than 1,000 agents will embark upon Capitol Hill for the highly-anticipated lobbying day with members of the House, Senate and their staffs who expect an annual visit from their agent and broker constituents. During this annual pilgrimage, Big “I” members reiterate to our nation’s decision makers that independent agents and brokers participate in the legislative process.
The legislative conference is the insurance industry’s best-attended, most effective legislative event of its kind. Top issues this year include: the National Flood Insurance Program, financial services regulatory reform, medical loss ratios (MLRs) and other health care topics, tax reform, crop insurance and the economic challenges facing insurance agents and the industry.
Register by March 2 and use the code, EARLY12 to save 10% on registration fees. For more information, go to www.independentagent.com and select the “Events and Conferences” link.
InsurPac Remains Largest P-C Agent Political Action Committee
InsurPac, the Big “I” political action committee (PAC), raised a total of $899,205.36 during the 2011 calendar year. Almost 4,000 agents and others came together to support InsurPac with contributions ranging from $5 to $5,000.
A total of 26 states achieved their InsurPac fundraising goal, and two states, South Carolina and North Dakota, achieved InsurPac Eagle status by raising more than $100 per member agency. North Dakota established a new record by raising an average of $179.17 per member agency. North Carolina raised the most total dollars ($63,344), as well as the most total dollars from their young agents ($12,175).
This strong support will allow InsurPac to play a crucial role in the upcoming federal elections. As it did in the last campaign cycle, InsurPac anticipates disbursing close to $2 million and seeks to build on its 93% victory rate in contested federal campaigns.
InsurPac is credited with making the Big “I” one of the most well-respected business associations in Washington. In disbursing contributions, InsurPac does not look at party affiliation but supports representatives, senators and candidates for federal office who have been advocates and supportive of the independent agency system. Unlike some other producer PACs, the Big “I” and InsurPac distribute 100% of voluntary agent contributions to federal campaigns and, as a result, have an impressive bipartisan track record on the campaign trail.