Candidates address flood insurance

Two of the six candidates for the 6th congressional district called the government-underwritten flood insurance program wasteful, but said Tuesday Louisiana property owners should not have to pay higher premiums.

“It’s another government boondoggle,” Bob Bell, of Baton Rouge said. “It’s a bail out.”

Charles “Trey” Thomas said the federal government needs to eliminate the waste in the program.

The two candidates addressed the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party on their positions in their run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who is running for the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 election.

A law recently was enacted to put the National Flood Insurance Program on firmer financial footing. Flood insurance has required several taxpayer bailouts. But the new rules led to the likelihood of premium increases, particularly among owners of property in areas that now are deemed to be flood prone.

About 500,000 Louisiana property owners buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. NFIP has more than 5.5 million policyholders nationwide.

Congress earlier this month passed legislation that would delay implementation of the parts of the law likely to lead to dramatic increases in prices for the federally guaranteed flood insurance.

After the forum, both Bell and Thomas said that while they are critical of government-guaranteed flood insurance, Louisiana property owners should be protected from skyrocketing rates with subsidized policies from the federal government.

“Right now we have some time to tackle these problems,” said Thomas, referring to the approval of rate increase delays for some property owners.

Bell said, “You have to treat different groups differently.” But Congress should spend the time of the delay coming up with a program that would take the federal government out of the flood insurance business.

Bell is a lawyer who served in the U.S. Navy.

Thomas received his doctor of education from Texas Christian University and is executive director of Family Values Resource Institute.

Three other Republicans also are running for the congressional seat. They are state Sen. Dan Claitor, of Baton Rouge, who is a Baton Rouge tax lawyer and political newcomer, Cassie Felder, and Baton Rouge business owner Paul Dietzel II. LaPlace real estate broker Richard Dean Lieberman is a Democrat who announced for the race.

Woody Jenkins, who chairs the EBR Republicans, said Felder and Claitor had hoped to attend the forum but had last minute conflicts. Dietzel, who had spoken to the group before, attended the luncheon but did not speak.

After several close races, the district was redrawn by the Louisiana Legislature in 2011 to lean favorably towards a Republican candidate. At the beginning of the month, the secretary of state counted 484,609 registered voters, 74 percent of whom are white.

Based in south Baton Rouge, the district also includes all or part of East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne and West Baton Rouge parishes.