Friday, March 27, 2015

Legislative updates from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson March 25, 2015

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

Legislative updates from the office of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson on issues ranging from honoring the late Lena Horne with a Congressional Gold Medal for her achievements and contributions to American culture and the Civil Rights Movement to simplifying tax forms for senior citizens.

Combating Identity Theft Related to Tax Fraud
On March 9, Senator Nelson introduced S. 676, the Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2015. The Government Accountability Office estimates that over the past 9 years, $5.2 billion per year has been stolen due to identity theft related to tax fraud. This legislation helps victims of identity theft by expediting their refunds, providing a single point of contact for victims, and expanding the IRS Personal Identification Number (PIN) Program. The bill also equips the IRS with tools to better combat identity theft crime, such as giving the agency access to the National Directory of New Hires and allowing the IRS to regulate paid tax return preparers.

Requesting Documents from Takata about Defective Airbags
On March 12, Senator Nelson, as Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, joined Chairman Thune in a follow-up letter to the Japanese company Takata, the manufacturer of defective airbag inflators. The bipartisan letter noted the company’s failure to turn over requested documents and asked that certain critical outstanding documents be delivered to the Senate Commerce Committee no later than Friday, March 13.

Building a Public Safety Broadband Communications Network
On February 25, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Nelson, who serves as Ranking Member, recognized the work of FirstNet, the Federal organization responsible for developing and deploying a nationwide interoperable public safety wireless broadband network. At the Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Nelson reminded witnesses of the importance of this network to emergency responders nationwide. Senator Nelson also questioned Sue Swenson, the Chairwoman of FirstNet, about the plans to harden the network against cyberattacks and to make sure the network is resilient and reliable for first responders. To view the hearing visit: http://1.usa.gov/18L3JdR.

Honoring Lena Horne
On March 10, Senator Nelson introduced S. 693, the Lena Horne Recognition Act, a bipartisan bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the late Lena Horne for her achievements and contributions to American culture and the Civil Rights Movement. Rep. Alcee Hastings filed the House companion bill.

Honoring Civil Rights Activist, Georgia Jones-Ayers
On March 12, the Senate unanimously approved S. Res. 85, a resolution cosponsored by Senator Nelson honoring the life and legacy of Georgia Jones-Ayers. Introduced by Senator Rubio, the resolution pays tribute to the prominent South Florida civil rights activist who passed away on February 17. To view the resolution visit: http://1.usa.gov/1CpmfDY

Calling for return of Robert Levinson after 2007 disappearance in Iran
On March 10, Senator Nelson introduced Senate Resolution 99, calling on the Government of Iran to fulfill its promises of assistance in the case of Robert Levinson, the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history. Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent from Florida, disappeared off Kish Island, Iran, eight years ago. The resolution calls on Iran to fulfill its pledge to help locate the Floridian and return him to his family. Congressman Ted Deutch recently introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives. To view the resolution visit: http://1.usa.gov/1Lo3d6J

Simplifying Tax Forms for Seniors
On March 10, Senator Nelson became a cosponsor of S. 716, The Senior Tax Simplification Act. The bipartisan bill makes tax filing easier for people over the age of 65 by creating a simplified form similar to the 1040EZ. The legislation would allow seniors to include capital gains and interest on investments as well as retirement benefits, such as Social Security, on the simplified tax form.

Protecting H-2B Visa Temporary Worker Program
On March 13, Senator Nelson joined a bipartisan effort urging the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to immediately resume the processing of H-2B applications. The H-2B program is a necessity for businesses in Florida and across the country, including industries related to forestry, seafood, and tourism. The processing of H-2B applications were abruptly halted in reaction to a March 4 decision in Perez v. Perez, No. 3:14-cv-682.

Joining Bipartisan Effort for Better Airport Security
On March 17, Senator Nelson joined Senators Thune, Ayotte, and Cantwell in a letter to Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway regarding security lapses involving the use of Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges. The letter asked the TSA to report to the Commerce Committee any new or recent actions taken to address the potential vulnerabilities, as well as to provide a full account of lost or missing SIDA badges.

Protecting Consumers and Promoting Competition through Net Neutrality
On March 18, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Nelson, as Ranking Member, reaffirmed his openness to bipartisan net neutrality legislation that strongly protects consumers and refrains from undercutting the FCC’s future authority to address changes in the broadband marketplace. At the hearing, Senator Nelson highlighted the importance of the FCC’s work to enhance public safety, protect consumers, and promote competition. The hearing also addressed the upcoming broadcast spectrum incentive auctions and the agency’s fiscal year 2016 budget request.

Ending Reliance on Russian Supplied Rocket Engines
On March 10, Senators Nelson and Inhofe signed a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter expressing their concern at the current pace the Air Force is setting in eliminating our reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine. The Secretary of the Air Force recently testified that it may take until 2025 to develop and field a suitable replacement, which is years after the 2019 requirement established in law last year.

Protecting Funding for Aviation
On March 20, Senator Nelson joined 25 other Senators in a bipartisan effort requesting that the Senate Appropriations Committee provide dedicated funding for the Federal Contract Tower program. Throughout Florida, 25 contract towers provide essential services for law enforcement, air ambulances, search and rescue operations, and commerce. Senator Nelson is a longstanding supporter of the program, and helped stop the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposal to close 149 contract towers in 2013, including 14 in Florida.

Confirming Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown to serve at NOAA
On March 16 Senator Nelson voted in favor of Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown to serve as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Observation and Prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Vice Admiral Brown brings 36 years of experience from the U.S. Coast Guard to NOAA, and will be leading efforts related to weather and water services, climate science, and the agency’s integrated mapping and Earth-observing capabilities.

Honoring Disabled Veterans
On March 18, Senator Nelson hosted an event on Capitol Hill, with Representatives Lois Frankel and Jeff Miller, honoring the contributions that disabled veterans make to our country. The event featured a panel discussion with three notable disabled veterans – Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, former Senator “Max” Cleland, and retired Army Col. Greg Gadson. This was followed by an airing of Ric Burns’ documentary, Debt of Honor¸ which discusses how the United States has responded to our disabled veterans throughout history.

Celebrating Democracy in Greece
On March 19, Senator Nelson became an original cosponsor of S. Res. 105, recognizing the 194th anniversary of the independence of Greece and celebrating democracy in Greece and the United States. Every year since 2002, Senator Nelson has supported similar measures celebrating Greece’s March 25th Independence Day. To view the bill visit: http://thomas.loc.gov.

Advocating for Freedom of Speech Abroad
On March 18, Senator Nelson, along with 73 other U.S. Senators, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department immediately address issues stemming from the intimidation of journalists and censorship of the media by President Tayyip Erdogan’s administration in Turkey. The letter is a response to recent high-level arrests of the heads of Turkish newspapers that are critical of President Erdogan’s administration.