Flood Insurance Bill Keeps Lobbyists Submerged in Work

Few bills are expected to make it through Congress and into law this year, but an extensive array of lobbyists has high expectations for at least one bipartisan measure — a reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The last full NFIP reauthorization expired in 2008, and since then the program has been extended through a series of short-term measures. The current one ends on May 31, giving lobbyists a firm deadline to press lawmakers for action.

“People are spending a lot of time on this,” said Paul Kangas, vice president for federal policy and government relations at insurance firm Assurant.

Kangas’ company is one of nearly 100 entities that has been lobbying on the measure, according to the First Street database. They include such giants as the National Association of Realtors, which billed $6.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011; the American Bankers Association, which billed nearly $1.8 million that quarter; and Metlife Group Inc., which billed $1.84 million for the quarter.

To coordinate their efforts, lobbyists have assembled an informal coalition. That coalition helped collect signatures this week from 41 senators, led by Montana Democrat Jon Tester and Louisiana Republican David Vitter, asking Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to schedule floor time for an NFIP reauthorization. The House passed the bill last July by a resounding 406-22 vote.

“We believe that passage of a comprehensive, bipartisan flood reauthorization bill is within reach, and we respectfully urge you to schedule such a debate,” the senators said in the letter.

SaferSmarter.org, a separate coalition, also has been seeking flood insurance reform. That diverse group includes environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation; consumer and taxpayer groups such as Americans for Tax Reform; and housing and insurance groups.

The fact that a filibuster-proof number of senators were willing to sign the letter “is very encouraging,” said Charles Symington, senior vice president of government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA). “That pushes the issue to the foreground and hopefully will cause the leaders to take another look at the bill and make some room for it on the calendar.”

But Symington said the lobbyists’ efforts won’t stop there. He said IIABA will have a “fly-in” of members in late April and will make the NFIP bill “a key part” of its agenda. “We’ve found that the best lobbyists are the actual constituents … We feel like that has a lot more weight than just us doing it here in DC,” he said.

The National Association of Realtors plans similar grassroots-type efforts, said Austin Perez, the association’s environmental policy representative. “We’re going to remind our members that it expires on May 31, and that what we need is a five-year extension,” he said. “We’ll keep the focus on the fact that real estate markets are struggling and that we don’t need one more uncertainty, one more reason for markets not to move forward.”

A dispute last year between Illinois-based State Farm Insurance and the rest of the property insurance industry over the fate of some 800,000 former State Farm policies that the Federal Emergency Management Administration now administers held up progress on the bill. But Symington said he’s confident the matter can be addressed. “I don’t see that as a major issue at all,” he said.

Organizations that Lobbied 112 H.R.1309: Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011

  • ABIR
  • Ace INA Holdings
  • Allianz of America Corporation/Fireman’s Fund Insurance
  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • American Academy of Actuaries
  • American Bankers Association
  • American Family Mutual Insurance Company (aka American Family Insurance Group)
  • American Insurance Assn
  • American Land Title Association
  • American Rivers
  • American Securitization Forum, Inc.
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • Amerind Risk Management Corporation
  • Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
  • Assurant, Inc.
  • Baldwin County Commission
  • California Association of Realtors
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • Chamber of Commerce of The U.S.A.
  • Cincinnati Financial Corporation
  • City of Albuquerque, NM
  • City of Baytown, Texas
  • City of Clearwater
  • City of Daytona Beach, FL
  • City of Grand Rapids
  • City of Gulf Shores, Alabama
  • City of Manteca, California
  • City of Miami Gardens, FL
  • City of North Miami Beach
  • City of Orange Beach, Alabama
  • City of Stockton
  • City of Sugar Land, TX
  • City of West Sacratmento
  • Community Associations Institute
  • County of Santa Barbara
  • County of Ventura
  • Credit Union National Association
  • CUNA Mutual Group
  • Douglas County Nevada
  • Farmers Group, Inc
  • Flood Zone Correction, Inc.
  • Fort Bend County Levee Improvement District #2
  • Hartford Financial Services Group
  • Heritage Action For America
  • Housing Authority Insurance
  • Independent Community Bankers of America
  • Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America
  • International Code Council (Icc)
  • League of Conservation Voters
  • Liberty Mutual Group
  • Management Association For Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS)
  • Manufactured Housing Institute
  • Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.
  • Metlife Group, Inc.
  • Miami Dade County
  • Midfirst Bank
  • Missouri City, TX
  • Missouri Credit Union Association
  • Mobile County Commission
  • Mortgage Bankers Association
  • National Association of Federal Credit Unions
  • National Association of Home Builders
  • National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
  • National Association of Professional Insurance Agents
  • National Association of Realtors
  • National Fire Protection Association
  • National Multi Housing Council, Inc.
  • National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
  • National Taxpayers Union
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
  • New York Bankers Association
  • Poulton Associates
  • Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
  • Redevelopment Agency of The City of Stockton
  • Reinsurance Assn of America
  • Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated
  • San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency
  • State Farm Insurance Companies
  • Taxpayers For Common Sense
  • The American Council of Engineering Companies
  • The Chubb Corporation
  • The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers
  • The Travelers Cos., Inc. and Subsidiaries
  • Town of Cutler Bay, Florida
  • Town of Jupiter
  • United Services Automobile Association
  • Willis North America, Inc.
  • Zurich

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