Saturday Mailbox

February 14, 2004

Working to make flood insurance aid Marylanders

The debate in the news media about whether the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) now has, or ever had, jurisdiction over the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has blurred the facts. And I would like to set the record straight about what the MIA has been doing since Sept. 15 ("Senate panel accepts Redmer nomination," Feb. 10).

As was determined following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the state cannot compel any action by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The NFIP is a federal program not subject to state regulation. We cannot oversee its claims-handling or payment decisions. A lack of jurisdiction, however, did not mean there was a lack of action by the administration.

When I saw the horrific damage caused by unprecedented flooding along the shores of the bay during Tropical Storm Isabel, I knew that we needed better understanding of the NFIP -- thoroughly and quickly. I called staff into the office on Sept. 28 for training by an NFIP official to ensure that each person from the insurance administration in the 15 Disaster Recovery Centers around the state understood the flood insurance program. In addition, we worked closely with the NFIP and the insurance companies who wrote NFIP policies to advocate for Maryland citizens.

Our intervention resulted in more timely investigations, additional site visits and the re-evaluation of claims.

To date, the insurance administration has:

Taken complaints about the NFIP and tried to work with the policy-holders and the NFIP to settle the problems.

Interceded with insurance companies to try to get them to be more responsive to NFIP policy-holders.

Talked to NFIP officials about the concerns we have about the way they are handling claims.

Participated in a briefing for staff of the Maryland congressional delegation on the NFIP to try to get help from Washington for storm victims.

Worked with the NFIP on five training sessions held in November for Maryland agents who sell flood policies.

Since Sept. 15, more than 50 members of the staff of the Maryland Insurance Administration, nearly 20 percent of our staff, have worked tirelessly to help the victims of this terrible storm. To suggest anything less is unfair and untrue.

Alfred W. Redmer Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is commissioner of the Maryland Insurance Administration.

Ehrlich team botches the slots issue, again

Watching Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s leadership on slots, which he claims is the linchpin of Maryland's fiscal health, leaves this impression: The governor may have been a football star, but clearly he was not a quarterback because he does not know how to move the ball down the field.

Having been bested by House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a former football coach who knows how to execute a play or two, you'd think the Ehrlich team would have used the "off season" to do its homework.

Instead, team Ehrlich opened this year with a plan that in addition to calling for a massive infusion of 11,500 slot machines at the racetracks reaches for 4,000 more machines in places to be named later ("Analysts say new slot proposal may net $500 million for state," Jan. 29).

The administration's latest fumble was allowing the governor's fund raiser -- who is also a prominent Ehrlich appointee -- to solicit money from track owners for a lobbying campaign for the governor's plan ("Ehrlich appointee criticized for pro-slots role," Feb. 7).

The state's budget is not a game -- nor is the prospect of opening the door to an industry that undeniably would cause increased crime, suicides, embezzlement, gambling addictions and traffic.

Before we decide whether the large revenue increase the state would gain from slot machines is worth those ills, Maryland citizens deserve leadership that we can have confidence is prepared to tackle this radical policy change.

Sandra Benson Brantley

Baltimore

More gambling adds to risky temptations

If gambling becomes widely accepted and accessible, a get-rich-quick mentality will replace the work ethic in future generations.

I've seen it firsthand. My ex-husband was a compulsive gambler who easily lost $10,000 (that I know of) during our marriage. We could not afford that level of "entertainment."

After our divorce, he did not keep up with his child support payments, so the government repeatedly had to intervene with enforcement actions at taxpayer expense. These included driver's license suspension and tax refund intercepts. For more than 12 months, his unemployment compensation was intercepted to pay for child support.

The social and governmental costs of gambling are too high. We should not throw temptation in anyone's path.

Why help rich racetrack owners get richer at all our expense?

Dorothy Paugh

Baltimore

Staffing woes impair juvenile justice in Md.

As a former superintendent of the Cheltenham Youth Facility and area director of probation in Baltimore, I have been reading with great concern and sadness the recent articles related to the system I spent 24 years working with.

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