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Natural catastrophe bill a step in right direction


We certainly welcome the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee's recent approval of the Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance Act of 2007.

The bill, which was introduced by the committee's chairman, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., calls for creation of a 16-member commission that would examine the best ways to deal with natural catastrophe risks. It would report its recommendations to the relevant congressional committees by Dec. 1, 2008. The body would examine such matters as the effectiveness of building codes, the private insurance market's ability to withstand natural catastrophes and the "benefits and costs of proposed federal natural catastrophe reinsurance programs." The commission also would examine "the impact demographic trends could have on the amount of insured losses inflicted by future hurricanes."

Such a broad mandate is more than justified. Natural disaster policy resembles a mosaic in which different tiles can be set in multiple ways. Having an independent body examine the myriad ways the tiles fit together, and suggest which patterns present the most effective design for dealing with natural catastrophe risk, makes perfect sense from a policy perspective. The commission can also provide a forum for dispassionate examination of a subject that's stirred sometimes overheated debate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The Banking Committee was right to approve the bill, and we hope that the full Senate wastes no time in following suit when it returns from August recess.