Summary: H.R.3121 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (05/13/2008)

Title I: Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization - Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2008 - (Sec. 104) Amends the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (Act) to extend the national flood insurance program (Program) though FY2013.

(Sec. 105) Requires the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make national flood insurance available for multifamily properties of more than four units to a maximum coverage equal to the coverage amount made available to commercial properties.

(Sec. 106) Requires the FEMA Director to estimate the exclusion of certain prospective insureds from purchasing flood insurance at risk premium rates less than those estimated for specified properties (including any property not an individual's primary residence, severe repetitive loss property, and any business property). Sets an annual risk premium rate limitation of 25% for such properties.

Prohibits the Director from providing flood insurance to prospective insureds at risk premium rates less than those otherwise estimated (federal subsidy) for new or lapsed policies, or to any prospective insured who refuses to accept any offer for FEMA mitigation assistance by the Administrator.

Increases from 10% to 15% the annual limitation on risk premium rate increases for any properties within any single risk classification.

(Sec. 107) Instructs FEMA to issue final regulations establishing revised definitions of special flood hazard areas, including residual risk areas.

Subjects such areas to mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements.

Requires the Director to ensure that the flood insurance policy price in residual risk areas accurately reflects the level of flood protection provided by any levee, dam, or other the man-made structure in the area.

Requires the Army Corps of Engineers to notify the Director of the National Flood Insurance Program immediately upon decertification of any levee, dam, or man-made structure under its jurisdiction.

(Sec. 108) Requires adjustment of flood insurance risk premium rates to reflect the current risk of flood to property located in an area participating in the Program.

Prohibits the Director, until flood insurance rate maps for all areas in the St. Louis District of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Corps of Engineers are updated, from: (1) adjusting the chargeable flood insurance premium rate for any type or class of property located in an area in that District; or (2) requiring the purchase of flood insurance for any type or class of property located in such an area not subject to such purchase requirement before the updating of the national flood insurance program rate map.

States that such an area does not include any area (or subdivision) that has chosen not to participate in the flood insurance program.

(Sec. 109) Adds a new requirement for those states and areas where flood insurance must be made available.

Requires such states or areas to give satisfactory assurance that by December 31, 2008, state-chartered lending institutions not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation shall be subject to state regulations consistent with the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973.

(Sec. 110) Amends the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 to increase from $350 to $2000 the civil monetary penalty for a single violation of the Act. Repeals the limitation upon the maximum penalty amount that may be imposed against any single regulated lending institution or enterprise in any calendar year.

(Sec. 111) Revises the requirement that federal entities responsible for lending regulation require by regulation the payment of flood insurance premiums to a mortgage lender for deposit in an escrow account. Changes the property reference from real estate or mobile home to any property for which a loan has been made for purposes of acquisition or construction.

Extends the same requirement to state entities responsible for lending regulations with respect to lending institutions they supervise.

Requires any regulated lending institution, upon final payment of a mortgage, to notify the policyholder: (1) that insurance coverage may cease with such final payment; and (2) how flood insurance coverage may be continued after the life of the loan.

(Sec. 112) Declares that the Secretary of the Treasury relinquishes the right to any repayment of loans to FEMA, subject to specified conditions, to the extent such borrowed sums were used to fund the payment of flood insurance claims resulting from the hurricanes of 2005.

Increases from $1.5 billion to $20.775 billion, during FY2008 only, the maximum amount of loans and obligations the FEMA Director may issue to the Secretary of the Treasury with the President's approval for the Program.

(Sec. 113) Prescribes minimum deductibles for claims under the Program for specified properties.

Specifies the minimum annual deductible for pre-FIRM properties (containing a structure neither constructed nor substantially improved after the later of December 31, 1974, or the effective date of the initial rate map published by the FEMA Director under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 for the pertinent area) as: (1) $1,500, if the flood insurance covers structural damage of $100,000 or less; and (2) $2,000, if the flood insurance covers structural damage greater than $100,000.

Sets the minimum annual deductible for post-FIRM properties at $750 in the first instance, and $1,000 in the second.

(Sec. 114) Revises requirements for the FEMA Director's prescription of chargeable flood insurance premium rates. Repeals the requirement that the Director consult with certain entities before prescribing rates.

Requires such rates, in addition to meeting other conditions, to be adequate, on the basis of accepted actuarial principles, to cover the average historical loss year obligations incurred by the National Flood Insurance Fund.

(Sec. 115) Instructs the Director to establish in the Treasury a National Flood Insurance Reserve Fund, which shall maintain 1% of the sum of the total potential loss exposure of all outstanding flood insurance policies in force in the prior fiscal year, or any higher percentage the Director determines appropriate.

(Sec. 116) Requires any funds borrowed by FEMA for the Program to include a repayment schedule, which shall be transmitted not only to the Secretary but to specified congressional committees.

(Sec. 117) Prohibits FEMA from denying payment of certain flood insurance claims by condominium owners who purchased such flood insurance separate and apart from the flood insurance purchased by the condominium association, based on the flood insurance coverage of the association or others on the association's overall property.

(Sec. 118) Establishes the Technical Mapping Advisory Council to make recommendations to the FEMA Director regarding: (1) flood insurance rate maps; (2) mapping standards; (3) interagency and intergovernmental coordination on flood mapping and flood risk determination; and (4) a future conditions risk assessment and modeling report.

(Sec. 119) (Sec. 119) Requires the FEMA Director, in coordination with the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, to establish an ongoing program for review, update, and maintenance of Program rate maps.

Requires the Director to work to enhance communication and outreach to states, local communities, property owners, and community residents about the effects: (1) of any potential changes to National Flood Insurance Program rate maps that may result from such mapping program; and (2) that any such changes may have on flood insurance purchase requirements.

Authorizes appropriations for FY2008-FY2013.

(Sec. 120) Removes the limitation placed upon state or local government contributions for the cost of updating flood maps.

(Sec. 121) Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FEMA Director, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the heads of specified federal agencies to: (1) coordinate and share data on flood risk determination and geospatial data; and (2) report to Congress an interagency budget crosscut report that displays the budget proposed for agencies working on flood risk determination data and digital elevation models, including planned agency transfers.

(Sec. 122) Directs the National Academy of Public Administration to study and report to Congress on how FEMA can: (1) improve interagency coordination on flood mapping, including a funding strategy to leverage and coordinate budgets and expenditures; and (2) establish joint funding mechanisms with other governmental agencies.

(Sec. 123) Exempts from certain floor insurance purchase requirements any area located within the 500-year flood plain.

(Sec. 124) Amends the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA) to require that certain public information booklets include the availability of federal flood insurance.

(Sec. 125) States that a temporary residential structure built for the purpose of testing certain new flood proofing technology in any state or community receiving flood mitigation assistance may not be construed to violate any flood risk mitigation plan developed by that state or community and approved by FEMA.

(Sec. 126) Requires the FEMA Director, upon state insurance commissioner request, to cause Program representatives to participate in state disaster claims mediation programs.

(Sec. 127) Directs FEMA to: (1) continue to work to implement minimum training and education standards for insurance agents who sell flood insurance policies; and (2) report to Congress on implementation of the Bunning-Bereuter-Blumenauer Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004.

(Sec. 128) Directs the FEMA Director to collect, from property and casualty insurance companies authorized to participate in the Write Your Own program (WYO), any information needed to determine the accuracy of the resolution of flood claims filed on any property covered by a standard flood insurance policy obtained under WYO that was subject to a flood.

(Sec. 129) Authorizes such companies to make specified biennial expense reports to Congress.

Specifies a civil penalty for any property and casualty insurance company authorized to participate in the WYO program which fails to comply with specified reporting requirements or the requirement for biennial auditing of the flood insurance financial statements.

Requires the FEMA Director to conduct rulemaking proceedings to: (1) devise a data collection methodology to allow FEMA to collect information on the expenses of property and casualty insurance companies participating in the WYO program for selling, writing, and servicing, standard flood insurance policies; and (2) formulate revised reimbursements to property and casualty insurance companies participating in the WYO program for their related expenses.

Directs the Comptroller General to study and report to specified congressional committees on the efficacy, adequacy, and sufficiency of such rules.

(Sec. 130) Extends the pilot program for mitigation of severe repetitive loss properties through FY2013. Repeals the termination date for such program.

Sec. 131) Establishes in FEMA the Office of the Flood Insurance Advocate (FIA), among other duties, to: (1) assist insureds in resolving problems with FEMA; (2) supervise and coordinate audits and investigations to determine whether insurance companies allocate only flood losses to the national flood insurance program; (3) prevent and detect fraud and abuse; and (4) investigate conflicts of interest.

Requires such Office to report annually to Congress directly, without any prior review or comment from FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, or OMB.

Provides for appointment of regional flood insurance advocates, as well as temporary state or local offices following a flood event.

Authorizes the National FIA, upon application by a qualified insured, to issue a Flood Insurance Assistance Recommendation to take or refrain from taking specified action under any other provision of law, if the qualified insured is suffering a significant hardship, such as a significant delay in resolving claims while incurring significant resulting costs, or where the insured is at risk of adverse action, including the loss of property, as a result of the manner in which the flood insurance laws are being administered by the FEMA Director. Specifies required responses by the FEMA Director to such a Recommendation.

Requires the National FIA to report expeditiously to the Attorney General any reasonable grounds to believe a violation of federal criminal law has occurred.

Requires the FEMA Director and the FIA to establish procedures to take appropriate action against an insurance company, including monetary penalties and removal or suspension from the program, when it refuses to cooperate with an investigation or audit or where a finding of improper conduct has been made.

Authorizes the Director to use the National Flood Insurance Fund to fund the activities of the Office of the Flood Advocate in FY2009-FY2014.

(Sec. 132) Instructs the Comptroller General to study and report to certain congressional committees regarding: (1) the number of flood insurance policy holders currently insuring specified residential and commercial structures; (2) increased losses the national flood insurance program would have sustained during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane season if it had insured all policyholders up to the maximum conforming loan limit; (3) the availability in the private marketplace of flood insurance coverage in amounts that exceed the current limits of federal coverage; and (4) the effect that raising or reducing current limits of coverage amounts would have upon private insurers' ability to continue providing flood insurance coverage.

Directs the FEMA Director to report annually to certain congressional committees on the activities of the national flood insurance program.

Requires the Comptroller General also to report to Congress on: (1) pre-FIRM structures receiving discounted premiums; and (2) a review of the three largest FEMA contractors used in administering the Program.

(Sec. 133) Instructs the Comptroller General to study and report to certain congressional committees on: (1) the feasibility of requiring the FEMA Director to purchase, in addition to mandatory reinsurance coverage, private reinsurance or retrocessional coverage to underlying primary private insurers for losses due to flood insurance coverage provided by them; (2) the feasibility of repealing mandatory reinsurance and requiring the FEMA Director to purchase such private reinsurance or retrocessional coverage; and (3) the estimated total savings to the taxpayer of taking each such action.

(Sec. 134) Requires each policy under the national flood insurance program to disclose conditions, exclusions, and others limitations in plain English, in boldface type, and in a font twice the size of the text of the body of the policy.

(Sec. 135) Requires the FEMA Director to study and report to certain congressional committees on the feasibility of amending the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to include widely used and nationally recognized building codes as part of floodplain management criteria.

Title II: Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance - Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance Act of 2008 - (Sec. 203) Establishes the Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance to report to certain congressional committees on risks posed to the United States by natural catastrophes, and the means for mitigating them and paying for ensuing losses, including an assessment of: (1) the condition of the property and casualty insurance and reinsurance markets before and after specified hurricanes; and (2) the availability and affordability of insurance in all regions of the country.

(Sec. 210) Authorizes appropriations.

Title III: Miscellaneous - (Sec. 301) Modifies the project for flood control, Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to authorize reimbursement of the nonfederal interest for funds advanced for the federal share of the project, but only if additional federal funds are appropriated for that purpose.

(Sec. 302) Directs the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Energy to suspend petroleum acquisition for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) from the date of enactment of this Act through December 31, 2008.

Authorizes such Secretaries to resume acquisition 30 days after the date on which the President notifies Congress that the weighted average price of petroleum in the United States for the most recent 90-day period is $75 or less per barrel.

Requires the Secretary, to the maximum extent practicable, to negotiate a deferral of the delivery of oil under existing contracts for a period of at least one year.