[StBernard] Moving forward with our insurance reform legislation

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Mar 19 23:46:31 EDT 2007

March 19, 2007

Dear friends,

Moving forward with our insurance reform legislation

This week, the House Financial Services Committee announced it will hold a
hearing on an important insurance bill that I am spearheading through

This is great news for our state because my legislation will create a
multiple peril reinsurance program within the National Flood Insurance
Program that will allow homeowners the option of buying this insurance and
knowing that all of their damage from wind and water will be covered.

Too often, adjusters have fought with Louisiana residents over whether their
damage came from wind or water. In the end, it does not matter; damage is
damage, and my bill will give homeowners and business owners the option of
buying their comprehensive coverage from one source.

Too many residents of Louisiana are unable to find any insurance coverage,
much less coverage that is affordable. I have been working hard on this
issue, and this bill is a good step towards rectifying this problem by
giving consumers at least one more choice. I am glad that my colleagues in
Congress are showing a commitment to fixing these problems that face our

Making sure insurance claims can be paid

In addition, I joined a group of bipartisan Members of Congress this week in
introducing national risk catastrophe legislation.

We have to do more to lower insurance premiums throughout Louisiana, and
this bill will be a step in the right direction. The federal government has
a history of aiding areas devastated by disaster, like it did in New York
City in the aftermath of September 11th. Louisiana residents deserve the
same treatment; it should not matter if the damage was caused by a terrorist
attack or a hurricane.

Specifically, this legislation would establish a layer-based reinsurance
system, which would allow the private sector to take the lead on property
insurance. The government would in turn provide a national backstop in cases
where a natural catastrophe reached a significant level, beyond the capacity
of the private market, like it did following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Too many people in our state have been left to fend for themselves and pay
large premiums because the insurance industry cannot keep up with the huge
number of claims being filed. This bill will help ensure that Louisianians
will have lower premiums and will get their claims paid so that they can
begin the monumental task of rebuilding their lives. Importantly, the
chairman of the Financial Services Committee has offered his support. I will
keep working with my colleagues to push this legislation in Congress.

Advocating for more nursing workforce development

As I meet more and more people from throughout our state, I continue to hear
the same concerns over and over. We need better access to health care. We
need improved schools. And most of all, we need economic development in our

This impacts every industry and every community in our state. But if we want
to expand the businesses in our state, and bring new industries to
Louisiana, we have to ensure that we have a trained workforce ready to work.

This week, I spoke to nurses from Oak Grove and Natchitoches who were
concerned about the nursing shortage in their areas. This shortage exists
statewide though, and is something that has to be addressed immediately.

I have been a vocal advocate in Congress for ensuring that we are adequately
funding important workforce development programs for the nursing industry.
Hospitals throughout the U.S. report that a shortfall of nurses is impacting
the quality of care that is provided. There are currently thousands of
health care jobs sitting vacant in Louisiana, even as our children leave the
state looking for jobs. And over the next ten years, our country is
anticipated to need more than one million new nurses as the baby-boomer
generation ages. This will both help improve the quality of health care and
also create good paying jobs for our people.

I sent a letter to the leadership in the House of Representatives this week
pushing for an increase in support for nurse workforce development programs.
To ensure that we are able to meet the demands on our health care system, we
must have a drastic increase in the number of workers who are ready to work
today, and I will continue to work hard to support Louisiana nurses.

Funding for recovery projects

The House Appropriations Committee passed an important supplemental spending
bill last week that contains billions of dollars for hurricane recovery
projects in Louisiana and along the entire Gulf Coast. This funding comes as
part of a much larger bill, and I have called on leadership in Congress to
allow for a separate vote on hurricane relief funding without adding other
unrelated provisions.

Too many people along the Gulf Coast are still struggling to recover from
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for political games to be played with recovery

I have been advocating for this funding for crucial projects in our area,
and some of the major projects I have been pushing were included in the
bill. This legislation includes $1.3 billion in new funds to repair and
accelerate completion of flood protection projects throughout our area. In
addition, $650 million will be provided to complete flood protection
projects at the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal. Our first priority must be
ensuring that all of our communities in Louisiana have adequate flood
protection, and I will continue to call on my colleagues in Congress and the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully fund and implement all of the flood
and storm needs in Louisiana.

The supplemental bill also contains $60 million that may be used to help our
educational systems recover, as well as recruit and train new teachers and
faculty. This includes $30 million to elementary and secondary schools in
order to help them recruit and retain teachers and $30 million to higher
educational facilities that were forced to suspend their operations for at
least 30 days as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I requested both
of these important provisions in order to support our schools and higher
education facilities.

I introduced legislation last Congress that was signed into law that granted
the Secretary of Education the waiver authority to allow higher education
institutions to forgo local matching funds in federal campus based aid
funds. In addition, I introduced a bill that was included as part of the
2005 Department of Defense Appropriations bill which allocated $1.6 billion
in education support for the thousands of children displaced by Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita. The money helped schools in Louisiana rebuild and reopen
so displaced students could return home.

In addition, two provisions that I have been pushing for were included in
this bill. The first provision will allow FEMA to forgive the Community
Disaster Loans for local governments. In addition, the legislation also
contains $910 million to waive the state and local cost shares resulting
from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I have been a vocal advocate for these
provisions as communities in our state need this assistance as they continue
to rebuild and recover. Other communities in previous disasters have
received this assistance, and Louisiana should be afforded the same benefit.

I will continue to push leadership in the House of Representatives to let
Members of Congress take a vote on these important provisions separate from
the rest of the bill so that this important funding can get to our state as
quickly as possible.

This weekend, I enjoyed spending some time in Mansura, just north of
Cottonport in Avoyelles Parish. I always enjoy catching up with old friends
in the area. I hope you have a great week, and feel free to contact my
office if we can be of any assistance to you!


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