Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Legislative Updates from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson


Calling for Federal Regulators to Investigate Verizon’s Breach of Consumer Privacy
On February 6, Senator Nelson, along with Senators Blumenthal and Markey, called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Verizon’s use of web- tracking mechanisms, often referred to as “supercookies.” These supercookies cannot be disabled or deleted by the customer. Senator Nelson stressed that both agencies should use all of their current statutory authority to examine whether the use of supercookies could violate any rules regarding consumer privacy, as well as any obligations Verizon has to disclose its network management practices.

Simplifying Commercial Vessel Operating Requirements
On February 4, Senator Nelson joined Senator Rubio and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) in reintroducing the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (S. 373). This bipartisan legislation was introduced in the previous Congress, with over 30 Senate
cosponsors. If enacted, the bill would establish a single set of environmentally sound, national standards for the management of ballast water and other discharges that occur as a normal part of commercial vessel operation.

The bill was introduced the same day a hearing on ballast water was held by Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, & Coast Guard. In the hearing it was noted that water carried in ships’ ballast tanks from other parts of the world has proven to be a significant source of aquatic invasive species in U.S. waters. Under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, a national standard would replace the confusing jumble of state and federal requirements that currently apply. To view the hearing visit: http://1.usa.gov/1x87VbI

Helping the Disabled Save For Long- Term Care
On February 3, Senator Nelson joined Senator Grassley in re-introducing S. 349, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act. This bipartisan bill would help low-income individuals with disabilities save money toward their long-term care needs without losing access to Medicaid health services. Senator Nelson introduced this bill in the last Congress to help provide adults with disabilities the right to create their own special needs trusts in order to supplement the benefits provided by Medicaid.

Supporting After-School Programs
On February 10, Senator Nelson joined Senator Boxer in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, raising concerns about the loss of funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) programs. The programs currently support 1.6 million students by providing local after- school enrichment activities. The program is currently funded under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), first signed into law in 1965.

Current discussions among Senate leadership about the reauthorization of the Act include eliminating the dedicated funding stream for the program and instead redirecting funds to daytime, in-school education programming. The letter outlines the importance of reauthorizing the after- school programs, citing evidence that it keeps kids safe, improves academic performance, and benefits working families.

Accurately Rating Medicare Plans
On February 3, Senator Nelson led a bipartisan letter, signed by 40 Senators, addressed to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting that the socio-economic status of patients be considered when rating Medicare Advantage plans. The ratings system, known as star ratings, is designed to allow seniors to choose better quality Medicare Advantage plans. In the letter to CMS, Senators expressed concern that this ratings system is weighted towards plans that cover wealthier and healthier seniors. Senator Nelson encouraged CMS to implement changes in the star rating system that would ensure accurate assessments and fair comparisons of all plans.