Saturday, April 9, 2016

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson: April 7, 2016 Legislative Updates

Requesting an Increase of U.S. Security Assistance to Israel
On March 16, Senator Nelson wrote to President Obama urging him to negotiate a robust new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which increases U.S. security assistance to Israel. Senator Nelson underscored the importance of this assistance in helping Israel maintain its qualitative military edge (QME) over neighboring militaries and deter and defend against regional threats.

Requesting Full Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome and Other Defense Programs
On March 18, Senator Nelson wrote to Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Durbin of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, requesting full funding for U.S.- Israeli cooperative defense programs. These programs help Israel develop, finance, and deploy the Iron Dome, Arrow 2, Arrow 3, and David’s Sling weapons systems—used to protect Israel from Hamas rocket fire and longer-range threats.

Requesting Funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
On March 18, Senator Nelson wrote to Chairman Lindsey Graham and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations, requesting increased funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for monitoring Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear agreement. Senator Nelson requested an additional $10.6 million for the U.S. voluntary contribution to the IAEA to ensure it has the funding necessary to do the job.

Requesting Funding for the Veterans’ Crisis Phone Line
On March 16, Senator Nelson wrote to Chairman Kirk and Ranking Member Tester of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, requesting that the Veterans’ Crisis Line be fully funded.  The Veterans Crisis Line serves veterans in times when they are most in need. Senator Nelson requested the necessary funding to ensure that the line be fully operational.

Requesting Funding for Schools Serving Military Families
On March 18, Senator Nelson wrote to Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Durbin of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, requesting continued support for the Department of Defense (DOD) Impact Aid program.  Impact Aid provides financial assistant to school districts serving a high number of military families, including districts serving a high percentage of disabled military dependents. 

Restoring the Natural Flow of Water in Collier County
On April 4, Senator Nelson wrote to Army Corps Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy urging expedited review and approval of a Limited Reevaluation Report (LRR) for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. The LRR includes a revised cost estimate and authorization to construct a new feature to benefit manatees. Authorized in 2007, the Picayune Strand Restoration project is scheduled to be completed by 2020. The goal of the project is to restore the natural flow of water across 93 square miles in Collier County. This will provide more than 55,000 acres of habitat for several endangered species, such as the Florida Panther, while maintaining flood protection for adjacent areas. Without this LRR to authorize increased funding, the Army Corps will not be able to achieve the project’s full environmental benefits.

Supporting the Everglades Headwaters
On March 24, Senator Nelson wrote to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture in support of additional funding for the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Created in 2012, the Headwaters refuge set a goal of conserving 150,000 acres of land through conservation easements and acquisition. Conserving land provides flood protection, improves water quality, and preserves natural habitat for wildlife. In February, more than 5,300 acres were added to the Headwaters refuge.

Urging Strong Safety Standards for Offshore Drilling
On March 18, Senator Nelson wrote to Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to emphasize the importance of strong safety standards for offshore drilling. The letter also notes the economic damage that spills like Deepwater Horizon cause for coastal communities. OMB is reviewing the Interior Department’s well control rule, which would update these standards. The proposal would require higher standards and oversight of the maintenance and repair of blowout preventers and other equipment. A blowout preventer is a valve (or similar mechanism) used to control and seal oil and gas wells. The blowout preventer’s shear ram—a device with two blades that seals off a well in an emergency—is blamed for failing to fully close off the well that sent oil and gas rushing to the surface in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

Increasing Access to Cancer Care
On March 22, Senators Nelson and Rubio sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting that the agency work with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (Sylvester) at the University of Miami to increase their number of inpatient beds. Sylvester is currently capped at 40 inpatient beds, which does not meet the demand from patients seeking treatment.  Florida has the second highest number of cancer cases in the United States.  The number is expected to rise as the population ages.