Two months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall and one day after the start of a special session of the Louisiana legislature, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) has joined the coalition of Constructing a Stronger Louisiana and is urging Governor Kathleen Blanco and Louisiana lawmakers to focus on implementing, enforcing and funding stronger statewide building codes with an emphasis on creating a program supplemented by federal funds.
In a letter written to Gov. Blanco, Greg LaCost, regional manager and counsel for PCI states, “If the dream of rebuilding a stronger and better Louisiana is to become a reality, then we need to make sure that Louisiana implements a strong statewide building code and secures the funding to enforce it.”
LaCost continued, “Stronger building codes are of little value unless they are enforced. And state lawmakers must ensure that local building departments are adequately funded and staffed with qualified, trained, tested, and certified personnel. It is essential that the gulf state governors join efforts to place pressure on Congress and possibly the president to have funds set aside for the enforcement mechanism.”
PCI defines several specific steps for the program. First, PCI proposes that Louisiana legislators and the Louisiana Congressional delegation encourage Congress to provide short term federal assistance to states that enact tougher building standards so that those states can administer and enforce the enhanced codes.
Second, PCI suggests that Gov. Blanco publicly ask Congress and the president to set aside federal monies for Louisiana for the enforcement mechanism when the state’s building code proposal is passed on a state level.
Finally, PCI suggests that efforts are coordinated with the Mississippi and Alabama governors, in order to more firmly cement the position.
The program calls for participating states to receive financial assistance for enforcing wind and flood building requirements and for establishing a state building commission to ensure local compliance with a statewide building code. Enhanced direct federal post-disaster grants would also be made available to consumers to offset a share of the added costs when rebuilding to more stringent code requirements to those states participating in this program.
While Louisiana is currently at the center of the building codes issue, PCI is urging the implementation and enforcement of building codes at the national level to ensure that the next hurricane will not cause the same or increased damage and loss of lives.
“Statewide building codes can help reduce the economic losses and speed the recovery from future hurricanes,” said Ernie Csiszar, president and CEO of PCI. “Stronger building codes result in the construction of safe and durable structures reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses. But stronger building codes are of little value unless they are enforced. Congress should give states incentive to adopting stricter building standards by providing the financial resources to make certain upgrades are enforced.”
“Everyone benefits from the establishment and enforcement of stricter building codes,” added Csiszar. “Stronger statewide building codes would help prevent us from making the same mistake and would facilitate the building and rebuilding of higher-risk coastal and non-coastal communities.”
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