State Net Capitol Journal Legislative Updates: NY, NJ Take Different Paths To Sandy Recovery

NY, NJ TAKE DIFFERENT PATHS TO SANDY RECOVERY: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) are taking vastly different approaches to residents seeking to rebuild their coastal homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Christie wants them to stay and to rebuild and is willing to pay them to do it. Cuomo is also willing to shell out cash incentives, but only to those residents who will agree to rebuild elsewhere.

Both plans, which were revealed last week, would utilize federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds. Christie supports a plan that would give Garden State owners of flood-damaged coastal homes $10,000 to stay and rebuild, provided they agree to remain there for at least two years. Cuomo, meanwhile, believes that climate change has made it imperative that people living in flood-prone areas relocate to less susceptible ground. He wants to use $171 million in the Sandy funding to buy damaged houses from their owners at pre-storm market value, with those homes being razed and the land left fallow.

New Jersey is expected to have a buy-out program as well, but no details have yet emerged as to how big it will be or how strongly state officials will advocate for displaced residents to take advantage of it. Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the governor wants to target specific groups of homes in particularly vulnerable areas, not individual properties. He said Christie is also committed to rebuilding the New Jersey shoreline, including it's residences.

"The governor has made it clear, we're rebuilding in New Jersey," he said. "That may mean building higher, it may mean new sea walls ... but we are definitely not going to force people to leave."

But residents in New York's Staten Island, which suffered calamitous damage and a dozen deaths in the storm, appear to be receptive to Gov. Cuomo's proposal. New rules issued by the Federal Emergency Management Administration would force many residents to elevate their homes up to eight feet from their previous locations or face drastically higher flood insurance rates. The cost to do so would be too prohibitive for many, says Long Island resident Alex Dubrovsky.

"No one in my neighborhood is elevating anything," he told the Bergen Record. "And when people start realizing they'll be paying more in flood insurance than their mortgages, they get panicked."

The two contrasting plans came within days of the release of a new Farleigh Dickinson University poll that showed nearly two-thirds of New Jersey residents think Sandy victims should relinquish their federal disaster aid if they don't rebuild their homes to meet the new FEMA rules. (BERGEN RECORD, NORTHJERSEY.COM, NEW YORK TIMES, NEWARK STAR-LEDGER).

ENVIRONMENT: The WASHINGTON Senate approves SB 5802, which would authorize the state to hire a consultant to study the best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and then use the information to create a report for lawmakers before the end of the year. It moves to Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who sponsored the measure (OLYMPIAN). • The MARYLAND House approves HB 1148, legislation that would ban the importation or possession of shark fins, considered a delicacy in some Chinese cuisines. The measure moves to the Senate (STATE NET, BALTIMORE SUN).

POLITICS IN BRIEF: The nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission issued a report last month recommending that CALIFORNIA turn over control of its state parks to cities, counties or private operators. The report charges that the state has more land than it can manage and the Department of Parks and Recreation has allowed the park system to slip into obsolescence (LOS ANGELES TIMES).

GOVERNORS IN BRIEF: MICHIGAN Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed SB 233, a bill that authorizes the state to spend $21 million on emergency dredging of 58 harbors and bays where record-low waters threaten the Wolverine State's lucrative boating industry. Gov. Snyder also signed four other measures (SB 252, HB 4398, HB 4399 and HB 4400) which address permits, fees and financing directly related to dredging (DETROIT FREE PRESS, MICHIGAN GOVERNOR'S OFFICE).

- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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