House fails to override Barbour’s wind pool veto

JACKSON — The Mississippi House has failed to override a governor’s veto of legislation that would have placed a $20-million subsidy into a state wind pool insurance fund.

The vote yesterday was 68-52 in favor of an override, but at least 80 votes were needed for a two-thirds majority.

Barbour vetoed the proposal last May. The provision was part of the state Department of Insurance budget. The $20 million would come from the Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund. In his veto message, Barbour had said the fund might have to be tapped to repay $400 million in federal hazard mitigation expenses.

The Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association, often called the wind pool, is the insurer of last resort for homeowners and commercial property in high-risk areas. After Hurricane Katrina struck in Aug. 2005, rates by many private insurance companies rose sharply. Some property owners have relied on the wind pool because they’ve been unable to find affordable private insurance.

Rep. Brandon Jones, D-Pascagoula, said Jan. 4 the wind pool “has become the only game in town for thousands of Mississippians.” Rep. Frances Fredericks, D-Gulfport, said insurance rates are so high it’s difficult for many property owners to afford their homes.

Legislators said wind pool rates are expected to remain steady this year. Supporters of the proposal said the $20 million subsidy would help the fund remain stable.

The Disaster Relief Fund was created to provide state match money for federal funding received in the aftermath of Katrina. Some Republican Gulf Coast legislators, including Rep. Roger Ishee of Gulfport and Mark Formby of Picayune, said the money should remain in the fund.

“If it won’t affect the premium payment, we may need that $20 million some place else,” Formby said.

The Senate hasn’t acted on Barbour’s veto.

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