Saturday, May 9, 2015

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson: May 5, 2015 Legislative Updates

Preventing Off-Coast Seismic Testing
On April 30, Senator Nelson introduced S. 1171, the Seismic Moratorium Act, which would ban oil and gas-related seismic activities off the coasts of Florida. Eighteen cities in Florida have passed resolutions opposing seismic testing. Scientists have expressed concern about the potential impact of seismic air gun blasts on whales, fish, turtles, and other marine life. Senator Nelson wrote to Interior Secretary Jewell last year emphasizing his opposition to seismic activities off the coast of Florida and its incompatibility with the State’s tourism and fishing industries, as well as its possible interference with military base operations, and space launches.

Addressing Physician Shortages
On April 30, Senator Nelson, along with Senators Reid and Schumer, reintroduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2015 (S. 1148), which would expand the number of Federally supported physician residency slots by 3,000 per year for five years, totaling 15,000 new slots. Of these 3,000, half would go to primary care, and half would go to shortage specialties. This legislation is supported by the Florida Hospital Association and by the American Association of Medical Colleges, which recently predicted a shortage of up to 90,000 physicians by 2025.

Protecting Whistleblowers in the Auto Industry
On April 28, the Senate unanimously passed S. 304, the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, introduced by Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson of the Commerce Committee. The bipartisan legislation would create financial incentives for employees in the automobile industry to report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dangerous defects or other safety issues that go unheeded by companies.

Ensuring Safe Rental Cars
On April 30, Senator Nelson joined Senators Schumer, Boxer, and McCaskill to reintroduce the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015. The bill would prohibit rental car companies and auto dealers from renting cars under recall before they are fixed. Under current law, companies are not required to do so. The legislation has the support of all major rental car companies, General Motors, and auto safety advocates.

The Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015
On April 27, Senator Nelson became a co-sponsor of S. 665, the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act of 2015, a bi-partisan bill which directs the Attorney General to establish a nationwide alert system to apprehend suspects who have killed, seriously injured, or threatened to kill or seriously injure law enforcement officers. Blue Alerts may also be issued when a suspect is wanted in connection with a missing law enforcement officer. On April 30, the Senate unanimously passed the Blue Alert Act, which is named in honor of two New York City police officers killed on December 20, 2014, in the line of duty.

Calling for Faster Replacement of Defective Takata Airbag Inflators
On April 27, in a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Nelson shared new numbers of deaths and injuries allegedly caused by rupturing Takata airbags. As of the end of January 2015, the number of alleged deaths reported by Takata rose from five to six, and the number of alleged injuries rose from 64 to 105. The number of alleged injuries reported in Florida – the state with the most incidents – rose from 18 to 35. In the speech Senator Nelson called on Takata to determine the root cause of the airbag explosions and to speed up production of safe replacement inflators.

Requesting Answers from Credit Reporting Agencies
On April 28, Senator Nelson and Senator Blumenthal wrote to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – to ask for more information about their practices and how they ensure accurate credit reports. Senators Nelson and Blumenthal inquired about compliance under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, FICO’s new scoring system for consumers who lack credit history, and about potential consumer protection concerns for the financially vulnerable.

Identifying Sponsors of Political Advertisements
On April 30, Senator Nelson sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler seeking an update to the agency’s sponsorship identification rules for commercial and political advertisements. Senator Nelson also announced his intention to introduce legislation requiring the FCC to complete a rulemaking to update these disclosure rules. This legislation will build on the Senator’s record of support for campaign finance reform and greater transparency in the sponsorship of political advertisements. The bill will direct the FCC to bring sponsorship identification rules up to date to better align with current technology and advertising practices and to ensure viewers know who is sponsoring specific commercial and political advertisements.

Supporting the U.S. Coast Guard
On April 28, Senator Nelson made known his full support for the U.S. Coast Guard’s role in preserving national security while speaking at a Subcommittee hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee. While at the hearing to examine the resources and priorities of the Coast Guard, Senator Nelson highlighted the recapitalization of the Coast Guard’s aging fleet as a top priority to effectively combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Eastern Pacific. At the hearing, the Senator emphasized that its command and control structure is essential to the successful execution of its mission.

Learning from Deepwater Horizon
On April 29, five years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Senator Nelson spoke at a Commerce Committee hearing highlighting current improvements and challenges in prevention and response to off-shore oil spill disasters. At the hearing, witnesses testified that oil spill research, preparedness, prevention and response has improved since Deepwater Horizon and noted the importance of a continuing connection between scientists and oil spill planners and responders. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 crewmembers and leaking 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over a period of 87 days. #SenatorBillNelson