The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 - currently Public Enemy No. 1 at the Jersey shore (and in flood-hazard zones around the nation) - put U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo in a tough spot.
The 2nd District Republican represents a district with lots of coastal properties, many of which will see major increases in flood-insurance premiums as a result of the new law.
But the measure was a well-intentioned move to inject some fiscal prudence into the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides flood-insurance subsidies of 40 percent to 45 percent to one in five policy holders.
Many in Congress have long criticized the flood-insurance program and have balked several times at reauthorizing it, resulting in several weeks-long periods when the program lapsed and the shore real-estate market came to a standstill.
The critics note - with a good deal of sense - that people who live in flood zones, particularly the owners of second homes and the owners of homes that repeatedly flood - shouldn't be getting any government subsidy.
And so, after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma plunged the NFIP $17 billion into debt in 2005 alone, Congress embarked on five years of debate and eventually passed Biggert-Waters, giving the program more long-term security - and phasing out the government subsidies for flood insurance.
LoBiondo voted yes, as did most of Congress.
Then came Hurricane Sandy.
Then came new advisory flood maps that greatly increased flood-hazard areas and called for elevating many shore homes.
And so, on top of the devastation, the lost possessions, the damaged homes and businesses, the interrupted lives and the cost to make all that right, came the realization that, thanks to Biggert-Waters, flood insurance rates will soon rise as much as 25 percent a year for four years for some properties. And that, in turn, will have major ramifications for the real-estate market and municipal ratables.
Suddenly, LoBiondo's vote on Biggert-Waters wasn't looking so good here at the shore.
But this week, LoBiondo suggested a minor tweak to the law that should alleviate some of the immediate concerns without undermining the thrust of the measure.
LoBiondo, and Rep. Jon Runyan, R-3rd, are sponsoring a bill that would allow flood insurance rates to rise 12.5 percent a year over eight years, instead of 25 percent a year over four years.
The change, which would apply nationwide, would sensibly slow the rate of increase as New Jersey recovers from Hurricane Sandy. The measure would be a needed bit of relief from an otherwise sound law that, as painful as it is for some coastal residents, was a necessary improvement to the National Flood Insurance Program.