Outgoing Representatives Secure Flood Insurance Extension and Coast Guard Funding
Congressmen Tom MacArthur and Frank LoBiondo are on their way out of Washington, with the former losing his 2018 re-election effort and the latter retiring, but they each gave their constituents a parting gift last week.
MacArthur’s, who will only represent New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, for a few more weeks, is short-lived but extremely important for all Southern Ocean County residents who live by the Atlantic and its bays. He pushed a bill through the House extending the National Flood Insurance Program through Friday, Dec. 7. Without that bill the NFIP would have expired on Nov. 30 at midnight.
“Since day one,” said the two-term representative, “I’ve said I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the National Flood Insurance Program does not lapse and that South Jersey residents are protected from another Superstorm Sandy. Today is no different. Against the wishes of my own chairman and leaders in our party, I finalized this bill three minutes before we officially closed out the Washington, D.C. office; a lame duck Congress will not stop me from fighting for what’s best for Burlington and Ocean Counties.
“I’ve been in Congress for four years, and while one-week extensions demonstrate our broken legislative process, this was a necessary action for millions of NFIP policyholders. If we allowed a lapse, South Jerseyans would be left unprotected from another storm and coastal home-buyers would not be able to obtain a mortgage. I’m committed to seeing this through and will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make needed reforms to the NFIP – 140 million Americans living in coastal counties depend on it.”
According to the National Association of Realtors, MacArthur’s bill was the 43rd short-term fix for the NFIP since 1998, with eight coming in the past year alone. The association supports the NFIP, which isn’t surprising considering that potential home buyers must obtain flood insurance in flood-prone areas before they can obtain a mortgage.
Conservatives, on the other hand, oppose long-term reauthorization of the NFIP without reforms that would ultimately move the program toward privatization.
So expect yet another short-term extension in this lame duck congressional session, as the outgoing representatives kick the can down the road, leaving the next Congress to deal with controversial NFIP reforms.
LoBiondo’s gift to New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes all or part of eight southern New Jersey counties including all of Southern Ocean County save the aforementioned half of Stafford and all of Barnegat, will be more long-lasting.
LoBiondo’s district houses several important U.S. Coast Guard facilities including Station Barnegat Light, which stands watch over the often turbulent waters of the Barnegat Inlet; Air Station Atlantic City, established in 1998, the newest and largest airframe unit of the Coast Guard’s air stations, which is responsible for search and rescue and homeland security missions from Virginia to Connecticut; and the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, the Coast Guard’s only boot camp since 1982. So it isn’t surprising that LoBiondo served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee for 22 of his 24 years in Congress, including 14 when he was that subcommittee’s chairman, vice chair or ranking member.
Last Tuesday LoBiondo was honored when the House passed the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 by voice vote, following up a 94-6 vote in the Senate.
The bill, which will now go to President Trump’s desk for signature, is a two-year agreement that authorizes $7.9 billion for the Coast Guard’s operating expenses along with an additional $2.6 billion for construction, renovation and facilities improvement. It also authorizes increasing the Coast Guard’s personnel strength to 43,009 active duty personnel for Fiscal Year 2018 and 44,500 for FY 2019, a boost for our nation’s smallest, but multi-tasked-to-the-max, armed service. The legislation also authorizes up to $167 million for three new 154-foot Sentinel-class fast-response cutters and permits the Department of Homeland Security to enter into a multi-year contract to procure three new 418-foot Legend-class national security cutters, the largest ships in the Coast Guard fleet.
“So few issues have been bipartisan across the board during my time in Congress, but supporting the Coast Guard was always one of them,” said LoBiondo. “The men and the women in the Coast Guard are always asked to do more with less – finally my colleagues have come around to giving our Coasties more so they can continue their outstanding job. It is one of the truest honors of my life to have represented the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May and Air Station Atlantic City for 24 years in Congress.”
Having the bill named after him isn’t the only Coast Guard-associated honor LoBiondo will receive as he retires. On Wednesday he is scheduled to receive the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award from Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington.
Furthermore, the legislation eliminates the requirement that commercial fishing vessels obtain permits from both the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency to discharge things such as rain water runoff and air conditioner condensate from their boats.
“Throughout my time on the Coast Guard subcommittee I have focused on strengthening our nation’s maritime sector, a critical source of jobs and economic output,” said LoBiondo. “In South Jersey, commercial fishing operations have long been one of the leading employers, making Cape May the second-largest port by commercial value on the East Coast. This compromise ensures that the livelihoods of thousands of South Jersey fishermen are no longer threatened by duplicative federal bureaucracy and conflicting arbitrary standards.”
– Rick Mellerup