Tom Miller: Flood insurance rates are on the rise in West Virginia, nation
The rates for flood insurance are going up in West Virginia as well as throughout the nation after Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act last year, attaching it to the federal transportation bill. This legislation is designed to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program, which is deeply in debt right now.
But under this new law, most primary residences will be able to keep their current subsidized rate unless the owner sells the property, allows the policy to lapse, the property suffers severe, repeated flood losses or a new policy is purchased.
Nationwide, only about one of every five flood insurance policies is subsidized. But in West Virginia, the figure is about 60 percent, according to Richard Carte, an assistant coordinator for the National Flood Insurance Program in West Virginia.
There are three other categories of subsidized rates where property owners can expect to see a jump in the cost.
The first will be a 25 percent annual increase for owners of non-primary or secondary residences in a Special Flood Hazard Area until the rate reflects the true risk. This increase will kick in Jan. 1, 2014. Meanwhile, properties with subsidized rates that have experienced severe or repeated flooding can expect a 25 percent increase in rates every year, starting Oct. 1, until those rates also reflect the true risk.
Also starting on Oct. 1, owners of businesses or non-residential properties in a Special Flood Hazard Zone will also be hit with a 25 percent annual increase until rates there reflect true risk as well.
Kanawha County's floodplain manager Chuck Grishaber told a Charleston newspaper last week that these new laws will have a major impact on the state's largest county. As of May 31, Kanawha County had 3,590 policies and nearly half of them -- 1,761 -- were subsidized primary residences.
All these primary residences will continue to enjoy the subsidized rates until the property is sold, the policy lapses, there is an ownership change or the property experiences severe, repeated flooding.
West Virginia has five local governments participating in the program right now. Berkeley County has a Class 7 rating; Buckhannon, Philippi and Jefferson County are Class 8; and Charleston is a Class 9 community. Kanawha County Manager Jennifer Sayre said Louisville/Jefferson County, Ky., earned a $700 reduction in premiums for residents there because it received a Class 2 designation. Class 1 is the highest of the nine classes.
In contrast, one Kanawha County woman was planning to sell her home and had found a buyer. But when the prospective purchaser learned that the annual flood insurance rate would jump to $1,400 -- compared to the woman's current rate of $300 -- the buyer backed out of the deal.
The race to succeed Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in the U.S. House of Representatives continues to pile up potential candidates. Charleston lawyer Charlotte Lane announced her candidacy to run for the Republican nomination in the 2014 primary election on the steps of the State Capitol last Monday.
Two other Republican candidates already have announced they will also be candidates for the GOP nomination. They are former Maryland legislator and GOP party chairman Alex Mooney and Berkeley County resident Larry Faircloth, a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Ron Walters Jr., a Kanawha County financial consultant and the son of Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha, also announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination for Congress from the state's 2nd District last week. And Delegate Suzette Raines, R-Kanawha, said she's almost certain she will file to run for the GOP nomination as well.
Lane, who just had her 66th birthday on Aug. 12, said in an earlier interview that the fact that she has multiple sclerosis will in no way affect her campaign. She said she was first diagnosed with it in 1981 but " ... nothing ever stopped me from working or campaigning or working full time."
A member of the House of Delegates from Taylor County has been trying for the last three years to get the state legislature to consider legalizing marijuana for medical uses only with no success. But Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, did pick up nine co-sponsors in the 100-member House for his bill at the 2013 session and now he has increased hope for success when the 2014 Legislature convenes in January.
First of all, he has been assured that an interim study committee on health will schedule at least one -- and possibly two -- public hearings before the next 60-day regular legislative session. Manypenny's increased optimism for this legislation is also reflected by his re-election in a conservative county even though he has taken a public stand on the marijuana bill. And the national trend is evident with 20 states now having legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Tom Miller is a retired state government reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He is a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch opinion page.
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