Wednesday, June 10, 2015

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson: June 8, 2015 Legislative Updates

Reviewing the Criminal Justice System
On May 14, Senator Nelson became a cosponsor of S. 1119, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2015, a bill introduced by Senators Peters, Cornyn, and Graham that establishes a 14-member, bipartisan commission to undertake an 18-month comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. Such a review has not been done since 1965.

Modernizing the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act
On May 12, Senator Nelson joined Senator Cruz in introducing S.1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This bipartisan legislation amends the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) of 1984 to enable continued growth and competitiveness in the U.S. commercial space sector while also preserving the original intent of the CSLA. Highlights of the bill include extending the operation and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) through September 30, 2024, and extending federal indemnification of commercial launches against third party claims from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2020. The bill would also establish a new category of “government astronaut” as a separate class of passengers from crew and space flight participants. This would enable NASA astronauts to fly on commercial space vehicles to the International Space Station under the agency’s commercial crew program.

Making Warranties Available Online
On May 14, Senator Nelson joined Senator Fischer in introducing S. 1359, the E-Warranty Act of 2015. The legislation would allow manufacturers of consumer products the option to make their warranties available online. This would provide more readily available access to written warranties for consumers, while ensuring those without Internet access can still review warranties before and after purchasing.

Debating Trade Promotion Authority and Trade Adjustment Assistance
On May 14, Senator Nelson voted to begin debate on legislation to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and grant the President Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TAA provides benefits to workers impacted by trade, while TPA allows the President to negotiate free trade agreements under strict parameters set by Congress, providing an up-or-down vote for any final deal reached before 2021.

Supporting Care for the Elderly Through the PACE Program
On May 11, Senator Nelson signed onto a bipartisan letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell in support of the Programs of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). One of just 32 states with a PACE presence, Florida’s four PACE providers serve more than 1,000 vulnerable elderly in locations in and around Clearwater, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Myers. A delay in revising new PACE regulations has caused uncertainty among healthcare providers and has limited their ability to innovate and expand services.

Bills to Strengthen Trade Enforcement and Help Haiti Pass the Senate
On May 14, Senator Nelson voted for two bills related to trade. H.R. 644, The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which passed the Senate 78-20, strengthens the enforcement of U.S. trade law. The Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 (H.R. 1295), passed the Senate 97-1 and extends trade preferences to Sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, and developing countries under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Nelson has long pushed for an extension of trade preferences for Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.

Nelson receives Farm Bureau Award
On May 13, Senator Nelson received the Friend of the Farm Bureau Award, given in recognition for his work on the Farm Bill, Water Resources and Development Act, and comprehensive immigration reform. Given from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, the recognition is awarded at the end of each Congress to those Members of Congress who were nominated by their state Farm Bureaus and approved by the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors. Senator Nelson also received this award for the 112th and 110th Congresses.

Protecting Gulf Coast, Preventing Oil Spills, Improving Disaster Response
On May 21, Senator Nelson introduced S. 1430, the Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act, which improves the ability of NOAA, the Coast Guard, and coastal states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to marine oil spills. The bill extends a ban on drilling off of the eastern Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida by seven years, until 2027. The bill also gives Gulf coast communities the opportunity to weigh in on decisions about oil drilling and strengthens state-level planning for oil spills or seismic exploration.

Providing Paperless Warranties for Consumers
On May 20, the Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported S. 1359, the E-Warranty Act, introduced by Senators Fischer and Nelson. The bipartisan bill would provide consumers with the ability to access their product warranties online, while preserving the option of paper warranties for consumers. The bill now awaits consideration before the full Senate.

Supporting Our Commercial Space Program
On May 20, the Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Senator Nelson. The bill provides updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act, streamlining regulations for commercial launch providers. The bill also extends certain liability provisions, as well as the operations of the International Space Station through 2024. The bill now awaits consideration before the full Senate.

Calling for Takata to Release Company’s Documents on Airbag Defects Testing
On May 20, Commerce Committee Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson wrote a follow-up letter to Takata demanding answers to questions raised by a New York Times article that shed light on Takata’s helium-based testing of its airbag inflators. The news article reported that, as early as 2000, Takata was told that the method its engineers used to detect leaks was inadequate and that some of its prototype inflators were already leaking. In the letter, Senators Nelson and Thune inquired about Takata’s helium leak testing and requested documents related to this testing.

Funding Our Nation’s Highways
On May 23, Senator Nelson supported the passage of H.R. 2353 to continue funding for the nation’s highway and transportation programs. These programs were set to expire at the end of May, which would have disrupted major infrastructure projects across the country. The President signed H.R. 2353 into law on May 29, which extended funding for two months. Senator Nelson is working with his colleagues to pass a multi-year extension of transportation programs before the next expiration.

Questioning Army About Shipments of Live Anthrax
On May 28, Senator Nelson sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh expressing deep concern about the shipments of live anthrax samples from Dugway Proving Ground to an undetermined number of labs in the United States and abroad. As of June 3, the number of labs affected was believed to be as many as twenty-four. Specifically, Senator Nelson requested that the Army brief him on the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

Honoring Our National Parks
On May 15, Senator Nelson signed on to be a Congressional Friend of the National Park Service Centennial. The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. Congressional Friends are Members of Congress who share in celebrating the milestone event. Florida has 11 national parks, enjoyed by nearly 11 million park visitors each year. These national parks include Big Cypress, Biscayne, Canaveral National Seashore, the Everglades and Dry Tortugas, as well as national monuments such as Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas.