By Caroline Fuller
House Accepts Amendment Regarding Katrina Damage
The U.S. House of Representatives accepted Rep. Gene Taylor's, D-Miss., amendment that requires the Homeland Security Department's inspector general to investigate whether insurance companies wrongly denied claims regarding Hurricane Katrina damage last summer. The amendment argues that insurance companies downplayed wind damage so as not to cover the damage sustained by high winds on the Gulf Coast. Taylor claims that insurance companies are trying to pass excessive wind damage off as water damage to be covered under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The amendment was adopted by a voice vote. According to the language of the amendment, investigators from the Department of Homeland Security will determine whether insurance companies improperly assessed damage as flood damage to be covered by the NFIP instead of windstorm damage covered by insurance companies.
Insurance companies lobbied against Taylor's amendment. According to Taylor, this issue not only affects residents of the Gulf Coast region but all tax-paying citizens.
Taylor and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., have both filed lawsuits against their insurance companies for wrongly assessing damage to their homes in the Gulf Coast region.
Bush Executes Order Limiting Eminent Domain
President George W. Bush issued an executive order that limits federal agencies from seizing private property under eminent domain. The order provides exceptions for some public works including roads, parks and other similar projects.
A year to the day before Bush issued this executive order, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the controversial Kelo v. the City of New London, Conn. The Supreme Court ruled in Kelo that the local government could seize homes and businesses to develop a private office complex. Although the complex would not have to be for public use, it would have to generate more tax revenue for the city; therefore, it would be "benefiting the public."
Bush's order said, "It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property" by "limiting the taking of private property by the federal government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public."
Republicans Attempt Vote on Death Tax Before Recess
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Rep. William Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, attempted to pass death tax legislation by attaching it to a tax extension package. Included in the package were the research and development credit, the work opportunity tax credit and state sales tax deduction. Frist was attempting to prevent or make it more difficult for Senate Democrats to oppose the estate tax reduction by including it with the more popular tax extenders.
U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announced that the House would take up legislation prior to the August recess, stating that the House would "move forward and pass a piece of legislation that deals with the extenders and inheritance tax." However, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Senate finance chairman, indicated he was still pushing to keep the tax extenders in the pension overhaul conference report. Grassley was critical of the plan to link the estate tax with the tax extenders legislation. Grassley told reporters that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate minority leader, would not allow any estate tax legislation to become law this year.
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