Thursday, April 30, 2015

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson: April 28, 2015 Legislative Updates


Leading Bipartisan Effort on Net Neutrality 
On March 26, Senator Nelson joined Senator Thune in offering a bipartisan amendment on net neutrality during consideration of S.Con.Res.11, the Senate Budget Resolution. The Senate approved the Thune-Nelson amendment which reaffirms support for protecting a free and open Internet by providing clear and certain net neutrality rules that do not jeopardize key concerns like privacy, consumer protection, competition, innovation, and investment. 

Requesting Information from TSA regarding Pre-Check Program 
On March 25, Senators Nelson and Thune sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration’s Acting Administrator, Mr. Melvin Carraway, regarding concerns about recent security gaps in the TSA’s PreCheck program. In the letter Senators Nelson and Thune requested a response to several questions concerning background checks and the agency’s ability to modify standard operating procedures. 

Urging TSA to Review Process for Worker ID Cards at U.S. Ports 
On April 2, Senator Nelson sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration’s Acting Administrator, Mr. Melvin Carraway, voicing his concerns about the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Senator Nelson urged the Administrator to review the process for issuing waivers for the TWIC cards to ensure the nation’s ports remain secure. 

Opposing Censorship of Scientists 
On March 25, Senator Nelson introduced an amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution (S.Con.Res.11), that would have blocked the Senate from adopting any measure that censors a federal employee or agency from using scientific terms to discuss the weather, climate, oceans, or atmosphere. According to Nelson, scientists must be allowed to speak honestly about climate change so that vulnerable communities can understand the risk and prepare. Fifty-one Senators agreed to vote on the amendment, but the motion failed to receive the required sixty votes for passage. 

Compensating survivors of the Iranian Hostage Crisis 
On April 13, Senator Nelson became a cosponsor of S. 886, the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2015. The bill establishes a fund from Iran-related sanctions violations to compensate survivors of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, which lasted from 1979 to 1981. 

Strengthening Foreign Adoption 
On March 25, Senator Nelson became a cosponsor of a bipartisan amendment, which urges the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to allow children who have been legally adopted by U.S. citizens to leave the DRC and be united with their adoptive parents. On March 27, the amendment passed as part of S.Con.Res.11, the Senate Budget Resolution. 

Improving Communication During Severe Weather 
On April 22, at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Nelson noted the importance of accurate weather forecasting to the State of Florida, especially in the wake of hurricane season. The hearing focused on improving the communication of weather forecasting in order to enhance commerce and safety. 
Mr. Don Hermey, Chief Emergency Manager of Manatee County, testified about the importance of effectively communicating weather forecasts and warnings so that all citizens, including the elderly and those with special needs, can respond to imminent danger. Mr. Hermey further noted that because methods of communication should reach across all generations and demographics, an investment in flexibility is “critically important.” To view the hearing visit: http://1.usa.gov/1D5GRMP. 

Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak is “Unacceptable.” 
On April 17, Senator Nelson sent a letter to the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requesting full disclosure of information surrounding an oil leak by Taylor Energy Company in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven years ago, an underwater mudslide caused oil to begin leaking in to the Gulf from Taylor Energy infrastructure. Recently, the U.S. Coast Guard described the leak as a “significant threat” to the environment, as crude oil continues to flow from the Taylor Energy site into Gulf of Mexico waters. In the letter, Senator Nelson asked for information from DOI and DHS about flow rate estimates for the leak, subsea and aerial images of the leak, and response planning. 

Saving Taxpayers Money 
On April 23, Senator Nelson, along with 15 Democratic Senators, introduced S. 1083, the Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2015. The bill reduces the federal deficit while protecting seniors’ access to medications. The bill requires drug manufacturers to provide rebates to Medicare for drugs obtained through Medicare’s low-income subsidized program. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), taxpayers are charged double the amount for prescription drugs under the Medicare program compared to the Medicaid program. The bill would save taxpayers an estimated $121.3 billion over the next ten years. For more information visit: http://1.usa.gov/1GCE6aF

Protecting jobs in the Panhandle 
On April 22, in a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Nelson offered an amendment to a trade bill to extend preferences for Bahraini textiles under the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement. The amendment would have allowed WestPoint Home Furnishings to continue to import fabric from Bahrain to use in their manufacturing facility in Chipley – where the company employs 300 workers. The amendment failed by a vote of 10 to 16. 

Supporting a Bipartisan Trade Package 
On April 22, Senator Nelson voted in the Senate Finance Committee in favor of four trade related bills, which passed out of Committee with bipartisan support. The bills: 
1) renew the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) -- the authority Congress grants the President to negotiate free trade agreements under strict standards set by Congress. Under the bill, Congress still maintains its authority to reject or approve agreements. 

2) extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program through 2021, providing job training and other assistance to workers, firms, farmers, and communities adversely affected by foreign trade. 

3) extend certain trade preferences for developing countries, including Haiti. Senator Nelson spearheaded efforts to include Haiti, as the country rebounds from the devastating 2010 earthquake. 

4) improve the trade process at the Customs and Border Protection agency, enforcing intellectual property protections, implementing a new computer system, and establishing an interagency rapid response plan to ensure import safety. 

Funding Florida’s Ports 
On April 17, Senator Nelson joined 18 of his colleagues in a bipartisan letter sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting robust funding for maintaining water infrastructure projects; including Florida’s ports and inland waterways. The letter highlighted the need to fund critically important work to support Florida’s economic growth and international trade capability. 

Caring for Veterans’ Families 
On April 16, Senator Nelson reintroduced S. 797, which would eliminate the unfair reduction in Survivor’s Benefit Plan payouts for surviving spouses of deceased military members and veterans who also received Disability Indemnity Compensation. Senator Nelson has advocated for this fix for years and in past Congresses it has received broad, bipartisan support.