Thursday, January 29, 2015

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson Legislative Updates

An updated list of activities undertaken in Washington by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) that's pertinent to the City of Apalachicola and surrounding areas.

Preventing Child Nicotine Poisoning
On January 8, 2015, Senator Nelson reintroduced the bipartisan bill, S. 142, Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, which directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require child-proofed packaging for liquid nicotine containers used to fill electronic cigarettes. With the explosion in sales of e-cigarettes and other nicotine vapor devices, sales of liquid nicotine products have risen sharply. Most of the bottles are not child resistant – and just a small amount of highly concentrated liquid nicotine can cause severe illness or even death to a child. Between January 1 and August 31 of 2014, poison control centers received over 2,700 calls related to liquid nicotine, which can be toxic if ingested or absorbed through the skin.

Working to Make the State Tax Deduction Permanent
On Thursday, January 8, Senator Nelson joined a bipartisan effort in support of S.126, a bill making the state and local sales tax deduction permanent. The state tax deduction provision, which expired on December 31, 2014, allowed Floridians and those in states without an income tax to deduct state and local sales tax from their federal taxes. In 2012, 1.8 million taxpayers in Florida claimed the state and local sales tax deduction. Senator Nelson is long-time supporter of making this provision permanent.

Supporting the Respect for Marriage Act
On Wednesday, January 7, Senator Nelson became a cosponsor of S. 29, The Respect for Marriage Act, which seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Passed in 1996, DOMA allows states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states and bars same- sex married couples from receiving federal benefits.

Protecting Consumers Against Identify Theft and Financial Harm
On January 13, Senator Nelson introduced S. 177, the Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015, which would mandate stronger data security policies and procedures as well as a federal standard for breach notification in the event of a data breach. While Senator Nelson’s data security and breach notification efforts date back to the 109th Congress (with legislation to crack down on standards used by data brokers), there is renewed interest in Congress and the White House because of recent breaches at major retailers such as Target and Home Depot.

Safeguarding Protections for Internet Consumers
On January 21, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to consider potential net neutrality legislation. At the hearing, Senator Nelson made clear that he is looking for ways to reach a true bipartisan compromise on legislation. Senator Nelson maintains that legislation must preserve flexible, ongoing, forward- looking authority for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect consumers on the Internet. He also stressed that Congress’s consideration of legislation should not stop or slow down efforts by the FCC to implement strong net neutrality rules to replace those that were overturned by the courts over a year ago.

Debating the Keystone XL Pipeline
Senator Nelson cosponsored two amendments to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act. The first amendment required a portion of revenue from tar sands to be paid into the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The second amendment required that oil transported through the U.S. via the Keystone XL Pipeline not be exported, making it available for U.S. consumption. Both amendments failed.

Acknowledging Climate Change
On January 21, Senator Nelson voted in favor of an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act that stated that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” The amendment gained bipartisan support and passed 98-1.

Caring for our Veterans
On January 23, Senator Nelson became a cosponsor of S. 167, the Clay Hunt Act, which provides for annual evaluations of Veterans Health Administration mental health care and suicide prevention programs and initiates a pilot program for loan repayment for psychiatrists who agree to serve in the VA health system. Senator Nelson is dedicated to taking care of our military and veterans and believes that this legislation will help reverse and prevent the stigma sometimes associated with veterans who seek mental health care.