With an eye toward the 2014 election, two contestants now on Capitol Hill are fiercely competing to be the foremost champion of Louisiana’s interest in a complex issue: flood insurance rates.
The two candidates are Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and the man who wants her seat in 2014, Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, a Republican.
The two are in a heated competition for obvious reasons, but less obviously is the effort of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., also pushing on the issue. He’s a potential candidate for governor in 2015.
Is this politics or policy?
In the case of flood insurance, it’s good politics and reasonable, if not perfect, policy.
As much as some people around the country might think the flood insurance issue is a parochial Louisiana interest, the Louisiana delegation’s interest is matched by many other coastal areas — not least, New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy.
In Louisiana, there is a particular and seemingly technical issue of the maps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to calculate flood insurance rates. While technical, the decision on rates driven by a new flood insurance law could have the effect of pricing people out of homes in coastal areas that in Louisiana are protected by local levees.
FEMA was not counting those levees as flood protection for rate purposes.
This issue is important to our state and we welcome the attention of the members to it.
At the same time, this issue arose because of well-intentioned efforts to get the flood insurance program back into reasonable solvency after the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
The hard-core fiscal conservatives object to flood insurance programs because they are subsidies for development.
True, but coastal development has significant economic benefits for the United States as well as the areas directly on the coasts.
One view from the right: “Louisianans have no extraordinary claim over the resources of all Americans,” commented political blogger Jeff Sadow from north Louisiana. Shreveport, after all, is pretty far from the coast.
On this issue, we think that Louisiana’s delegation cannot be dismissed as parochial political profiteers. The reasons articulated by Landrieu — earlier than most — and Vitter in particular over FEMA maps and their impacts on rates are the kind of local problems that members of Congress ought to pay attention to, and help with if they can responsibly do so.
Further, we believe that members of Congress from Louisiana will continue to be advocates for a financially sustainable flood insurance program. Our state needs it, and it does no good to say that it should be all “take” and no “give.”