Pinellas County’s newest Congressman, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, is wasting no time getting down to business.
Jolly introduced legislation March 26 that would extend relief from the high cost of flood insurance to businesses and owner-occupied second homes. Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Congressman Gus Bilirakus are co-sponsors of H.R.4313 – the Flood Insurance Premium Parity Act, which would “ensure fairness in premium rates for coverage for business properties and second homes under the National Flood Insurance Program, and for other purposes.”
Specifically, the Flood Insurance Premium Parity Act would:
• Ensure that commercial properties and second homes purchased after the enactment of Biggert-Waters have access to affordable flood insurance by repealing the requirement that they be automatically charged actuarially sound rates.
• Restore grandfathered rates for commercial properties and second homes.
• Apply to commercial properties and second homes the same formula for yearly rate increases received by residential properties.
Jolly provided an update on his work in Washington D.C. during a conference call March 27 facilitated by the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. Pinellas County voters in District 13 chose Jolly to finish out the term of former Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young during a March 11 special election. Young died Oct. 18, 2013.
Jolly said his legislation is “simple in concept,” extending relief measures enacted 10 days ago for single-family residences and applying it to business property and owner-occupied second homes.
Jolly described the measure as a “baby step” toward finding a solution to the problem of keeping the National Flood Insurance Program solvent and providing affordable insurance rates for property owners.
He said the extended relief would apply only to second homes, such as those owned by snowbirds. There is one catch.
“If they lease it out they lose the relief,” he said.
And there’s a limit.
“It would only apply to the second home – not a third or fourth,” he said.
Jolly cautioned that it could take months before the legislation is passed.
“It could take a while to get it done,” he said. “We’re working on it as hard as we can.”
He said people needed to continue to reach out to Congress to help them understand what he describes as a “pocketbook issue.”
He said Congress finally passed relief for single-homes after members understood the hardships flood insurance reform was causing.
He said it was the same for business properties.
“It hits the pocketbooks for job creators and real estate. It affects property values and increases the cost of doing business, which is passed on to the customers,” he said.
Jolly believes that public pressure will help convince Congress to extend flood insurance relief. He said people should tell their stories so legislators can understand the hardship of unaffordable insurance premiums.
“We’re keeping the pressure up on this,” Jolly said.
He said officials with the Federal Emergency Management were studying the Homeowner Insurance Affordability Act passed March 4 by the U.S. House and March 13 by the Senate. President Barack Obama signed the bill March 21.
The bill aims to reverse massive increases in flood insurance premiums brought about with the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012. It restores grandfathering. It repeals the requirement for an automatic rate hike when a home is sold or when an insurance policy lapses. It limits annual rate increases to 18 percent. It gives refunds to policyholders who bought pre-FIRM homes after July 6, 2012, and were charged higher premiums.
Jolly said FEMA was taking its time to study the legislation to see how it applies.
“There are still some areas for interpretation,” he said – perhaps enough to include second homes in the existing bill.
He pointed out that Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is from Florida and “in our corner.” He said Fugate was working to find a solution.
“He just needs Congress to work with him,” Jolly said.
Jolly recently met with Fugate to discuss legislation for a national catastrophic fund.
“I’m waiting to introduce it until we can get it right,” he said.
Jolly plans to take his time in drafting the bill and ask for input from “a lot of people.”
Jolly said he is “overwhelmingly pleased” with his committee assignments. On March 25, he was appointed to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
He also was appointed to the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee of the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
While pleased to continue Young’s work for Pinellas County veterans, he explained that getting on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was “so important” due to its influence on highway and roadway funding, as well as water resources and water quality. The subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment is responsible for beach nourishment.
“We’re at ground zero for that (beach nourishment),” he said.
Jolly said he has been working on beach nourishment since “the day he was elected.” He talked about the pressing deadline on the contract for Treasure Island.
“We have to fix that,” he said.
The 50-year federal authorization for Treasure Island ends in 2019. Authorization for Long Key expires in 2030 and 2043 in Sand Key. In the past, federal funding has paid 60 percent of beach nourishment projects with the remaining 40 percent split between the county and state.
Jolly said he has been working with the Chairman of the Transportation Committee on the beach nourishment issue and has made “significant progress.”
He said his appointment to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation subcommittee would allow him to protect funding for the local Coast Guard and perhaps expand its presence.
Jolly announced that he has opened one of three offices he plans to staff in Pinellas County. He is taking over the office used by Young on the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College, 9210 113th St. He plans to host an open house at the Seminole district office in the coming weeks.
He also will open offices in southern and northern locations in the near future. His goal is to ensure county residents can readily access congressional staff and constituent services.
John David “J.D.” White is Jolly’s chief of staff. He will head the Seminole district office. White, a Florida native, was most recently the director of government affairs for WellCare Health Plans, one of the largest Medicare Advantage providers in Florida. He has more than 15 years of combined congressional and private sector experience.
Nick Catroppo is the deputy chief of staff and works out of the Washington, D.C., office. Catroppo was Jolly’s campaign manager was formerly a constituent services representative for U.S. Representative Richard Nugent, who represents Florida’s District 11.