Legislative column: Protecting the citizens from unfair costs

As the session gets up and running, many residents in the Northern Panhandle have brought to my attention changes going into effect because of the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012 designed to aid the failing National Insurance Fund. Because of the huge losses suffered during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, Congress passed this reform. The structure of this act will cause great harm to West Virginia residents not only in the Northern Panhandle, but across the state in the way of huge increases in flood insurance premiums.

These storms brought great destruction to coastline properties. The Biggert-Waters Act is designed to spread the cost of flood insurance premiums across the country, which includes the inland waters. However, the problem with this approach is citizens and businesses that live on waterways such as the Ohio River and contributaries that feed into the river are now seeing astronomical increases in their flood insurance premiums. Usually when a flood occurs on the Ohio River, water will rise and get into a house or business, and general cleaning must follow. When a hurricane hits the coastlines, there is often nothing left of the structures that are affected, and they must be completely rebuilt.

The people of West Virginia have nothing to do with the coastlines, and they should not have to bear the burden of coastline devastation. As West Virginians, we are told time and time again that our auto insurance costs are higher than other states because of the hills, mountains and high deer populations. The last time I checked, I did not see anyone on the coastlines stepping up to offset those costs for West Virginians. West Virginians should not have to counteract the cost of coastline devastation.

To ensure that Congress understands the unfair burdens and hardships placed upon West Virginia residents and businesses, Speaker Tim Miley and I have taken leading roles in drafting House Concurrent Resolution 42 (HCR42). HCR42 has the support of many other members in the House, and it will be sent to Congress to ask them to revisit the Biggert-Waters Act and to revise it. The resolution states, “While this Act had good intentions, it has resulted in an unfair burden and hardship placed on West Virginia residents and businesses.” I am hopeful Congress will be receptive to HCR42 and also hear from other states facing the same problem in our efforts to stop the Biggert-Waters Act from going into effect.

Contact information: Facebook page: Randy Swartzmiller, or follow me on Twitter: @WV_Delegate; or my e-mail: rswartzmiller@gmail.com or write to: Randy Swartzmiller, State Delegate, Room 242, Building 1 State Capitol Complex Charleston, WV 25305; or call my Capitol Office: (304) 340-3138 or Mobile: (304) 479-5140

(Swartzmiller is the speaker pro tempore of the House of Delegates, and represents the 1st District, including Hancock County and parts of Brooke County)