Reforming (or not) the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

I wrote a short piece for the London School of Economics’ blog on American Politics and Policy. The blog post is based on an article I wrote concerning Congress’ effort to reform the National Flood Insurance Program after Hurricane Katrina, and then its almost immediate decision to repeal those reforms. The reform measure drastically reduced or eliminated subsidies, ended the grandfather clause, and number of other things; the second measure restored them.

To briefly summarize the piece, I find that Congress was able to pass the reforms—despite the fact that those reforms would increase insurance premiums for some of their constituents—because the issue received very little public attention while it was being considered. And receiving little attention, there was virtually no pressure placed on Congress by parochial interests or constituents aimed at securing special benefits at the public’s expense. After Congress passed the reform legislation (the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012), however, the public attention—and thus public pressure on Congress—increased dramatically. Congress responded shortly thereafter by passing the Grimm-Waters Act of 2014, which repealed most of the important policy reforms they had enacted just two years before. You can read the blog post here, which elaborates my findings, or the full-length article (which goes into great detail, for the stout of heart) here.

House Moves to Overturn Kelo v. New London

On February 26, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives voted (353-65) to approve the Private Property Rights Protection Act (H.R. 1944). The bill, if approved by the Senate and President Obama, would prohibit any government from using eminent domain for the purpose of economic redevelopment. The bill is a direct (if delayed) response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London, which I discussed at some length here. The popular politics blog, “The Hill” notes that 43 states have already adopted some measures to reduce Kelo’s impact. Unfortunately, many of these reforms have been ineffective at meaningfully reducing the possibility that eminent domain can be abused (a good place to start exploring the effectiveness of post-Kelo reforms is at the Castle Coalition). Thus, if the Private Property Rights Protection Act becomes law, it would substantially alter the constitutional landscape of takings law.

At present, the interesting question is whether the Senate will consider the bill. In the meantime, I would refer interested readers to this relevant post at The Hill. The official summary of the bill is available at congress.gov.