Dec. 19--U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston says he thinks there is a 70 to 80 percent chance that steep flood insurance premium increases for some homeowners in the National Flood Insurance program will be delayed for a year.
The Republican congressman for Coastal Georgia spoke briefly about the law that phases out federal subsidies at the Brunswick Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce's annual Grits and Issues breakfast that also featured comments from members of Glynn County's delegation to the state Legislature.
Kingston and both Georgia U.S. Senators voted for the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 that shifts the full cost of flood insurance to homeowners. He said a change was necessary because the program is operating at a $24 billion deficit after massive losses from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
"The premiums to cover it all were inadequate," Kingston said. Premiums for some homeowners under the new law could reach as high as nearly $20,000.
His issue with the new law is a provision that requires FEMA to conduct an impact study of how the law would affect homeowners. "Unfortunately, FEMA bypassed that study," Kingston said. The legislation, however, did not require that a study be completed before implementation of the change.
Kingston said he and other members of Congress who represent coastal areas are looking at alternatives to change or delay the law until adjustments can be made.
One alternative is a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isaakson, R-Ga., that would push back changes for at least a year.
All three state legislators at the breakfast -- Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, Rep. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, and Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island -- said they support asking Congress to reconsider changes to the flood insurance law.
Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce President Woody Woodside said this week that many legislators are unaware of the effect the law will have on property owners nationwide.
Home builders and real estate agents in Coastal Georgia have expressed fears that the legislation will stunt home sales and economic recovery in the area.
"We've joined forces with the Association of Realtors, and we've encouraged our Chamber counterparts in Coastal Georgia (to share their concerns)," Woodside said Monday. "I believe that many members of Congress are not aware of the full impact and details of how (Biggert-Waters) is devastating individual property owners."
In another issue that affects Glynn County, Kingston said he is trying to persuade the U.S. State Department to train agents at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Brunswick rather than build a facility near Fort Pickett in Virginia.
The state department says it needs more space than FLETC has to offer, but Kingston disagrees. He said there is enough space to support the training and a much cheaper cost. Outfitting FLETC for the training would cost about $272 million, he said, compared to a $1 billion price tag to build a facility in Virginia.
On the state level, Ligon said he thought the Common Core Curriculum, adopted nationwide by most states, takes away too much control over what students are taught in Georgia's schools.
Atwood spoke about the state's need for faster growth in manufacturing to create quality, long-term economic growth. He said home building and real estate sales are good to have, but relying on them is dangerous because they are the first to fall in bad times and the last to recover.
Chapman said one of his legislative goals in the next General Assembly session is to pass legislation limiting the amount of cost overruns Southern Co. could incur by building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, about 165 miles north of Brunswick.
-- Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at email@example.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320. Reporter Kelly Quimby contributed.
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