South Carolina is joining a handful of southern states to support Mississippi in a lawsuit intended to stop increasing flood insurance rates, officials said Friday.
“It is important for us to do everything for our citizens,” said S.C. Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer. “Higher flood insurance rates are putting a strain on people.”
The Mississippi Insurance Department recently filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to thwart flood insurance rate increases.
The flood insurance increases are the result of Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012. The law was crafted to overhaul the debt-laden National Flood Insurance Program. That meant new flood maps, in addition to erasing subsidies for policies and increasing rates an average of 10 percent.
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney has said that the law could mean “some consumers will see rate increases of over 3000%” and “consumers face loss of their property due to the increases.”
Farmer said Friday that South Carolina will be filing an amicus brief, or “friend of the court” brief, in Mississippi’s lawsuit.
Florida, Alabama and Louisiana have also filed similar documents in the case.
“I am pleased that our sister states have joined us in bringing common sense and logical approaches to the flood program,” Chaney said Friday. “Our efforts were not to stop increases but bring common sense and logical approaches and a rate phase-in that consumers can afford.”
South Carolina’s filing in the Mississippi case will come on the heels of a series of recent action against the Biggert-Waters law.
Last week, a bipartisan group of House members and senators presented legislation to delay many pieces of the Biggert-Waters law for four years, saying the rate increases should not be implemented without more research.
Details of the new legislation include delaying the new rates for people purchasing homes from someone who currently has a subsidized flood policy.
People with second homes or whose property has repeatedly flooded would still have to pay the higher rates, which are scheduled to rise by 25 percent a year until their premiums reflect the true risk of flooding.
Last month, Gov. Nikki Haley asked the state’s congressional delegation in a letter to allow subsidized premiums for sold homes. Previously, a Charleston County legislative committee recommended local lawmakers to push for more review of the consequences of the rate changes.
As of late September, there were nearly 104,000 flood insurance policies in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties,
“We’re encouraging the court and the governor is asking congress to take a step back and look into the study before the new rates,” Farmer said.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC