Written by Lynn Bannister, Director of Outreach, Senator Bill Nelson Tuesday, 10 May 2011 17:04
Protecting Voters’ Rights
Senator Nelson spoke out against a controversial bill in the Florida Legislature (HB 1355), which would significantly reduce early voting days and change voter registration requirements. Senator Nelson wrote Governor Scott asking him to veto the law and also requested that the U.S. Justice Department open an investigation into the law since five counties in Florida are under the Voting Rights Act which requires preclearance from the Justice Department before any changes are made to election rules.
Ensuring the Survival of American Citrus
Senator Nelson introduced the Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund Act (S.903), a bill to establish a Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund for seven years, consisting of revenues from duties on imported citrus and citrus products. The purpose of the bill is to establish a dedicated source of funding for scientific research aimed at addressing diseases, domestic and invasive pests, and other challenges to the U.S. citrus industry and disseminating the research findings to the citrus industry. Currently, citrus research is funded through annual appropriations. The research would aim to find a cure for imported diseases such as “greening,” which threatens to wipe out the entire stock of citrus trees in the United States.
Hurricane Bill Clears Committee
On the heels of devastating weather-related natural disasters in the South, and with hurricane season just around the corner, the Senate Commerce Committee favorably reported out S. 692, Senator Nelson’s National Hurricane Research Initiative (NHRI) Act of 2011. The bill would provide specific goals for increased hurricane preparedness through coordinated research of hurricane predicting, resilient infrastructure development, mitigation of impact on coastal environments, and improvement in public communications. It would coordinate a multi-agency effort to study hurricane intensification, storm surge, rainfall, inland flooding, engineered structures, disaster response, and evacuation planning. The Committee also reported favorably on a bill that Nelson originally cosponsored, the Coral Reef Conservation Amendments Act (S. 46).
Helping Cities Do More with Less
Senator Nelson filed legislation that would allow Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients to spend more of their funds on public services. CDBG grants were cut by 16% in the FY ’11 budget compromise, and the existing cap for spending on public services is 15%. S. 887 would authorize an increase in the public service cap of up to 25%, giving grant recipients more flexibility in how they use their funds to help residents.
Protecting Servicemembers from Mortgage Abuses
Senator Nelson is a cosponsor of the Protecting Servicemembers from Mortgage Abuses Act of 2011, S. 486. This legislation encourages compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by increasing criminal and civil penalties for mortgage abuses, including felonies for unlawful eviction, foreclosure, or seizure. The bill also amends SCRA to extend the period of protection against mortgage sale or foreclosure from 9 months to 24 months, giving servicemembers time to readjust to civilian life.
Senator Nelson reintroduced a bill (S.880) to recognize the Muscogee Indians as an official tribe. The tribe, known as Eastern Creek Indians, resides in Walton County and has been seeking recognition through administrative means for over 20 years. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has been very slow to act. This has required the extraordinary step of legislative recognition. There is precedent for other tribes who have had problems being recognized, but the bill still faces a long road through the Indian Affairs Committee and eventually through the House and Senate.
Reducing Administrative Burdens for Businesses
Senator Nelson voted for the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-9), which fully repeals expanded information reporting requirements. The bill is fully paid for. Senator Nelson has consistently supported full repeal of these onerous tax reporting requirements, as they would have needlessly increased administrative costs for many local businesses. The bill became law on April 14, 2011.
Senator Nelson sent a letter and a copy of a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report to the Senate Armed Services Committee to reiterate that, despite a House subcommittee markup striking $30 million in planning and construction funding, cost should not be an impediment to establishing a new homeport for a nuclear carrier at Naval Station Mayport. The GAO report from March of this year found that costs are estimated to be between $258.7 million and $356.0 million, significantly lower than the Navy’s estimate of $537.6 million. Moreover, Senator Nelson pointed out that in recent testimony to Congress the Navy reiterated its commitment to completing the move, which is required by the definitive 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.
Protecting Taxpayers from Identity Theft
Senator Nelson sent a letter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration urging an investigation into the rising level of tax fraud perpetrated through identity theft. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission received over 250,000 complaints of identity theft connected to tax fraud. Recent investigations in Florida have uncovered online tax scams that use stolen identities to defraud taxpayers of their federal and state refunds. In response to Senator Nelson’s letter, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration recently initiated an investigation into the matter.
Honoring Recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross
Senator Nelson is a cosponsor of the Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial Act, which designates a memorial at March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California in honor of members of the Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves in aerial flight. He also signed a letter to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee asking for a hearing on this legislation; there are five chapters of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society in Florida.
Honoring Special Forces
The Senate adopted S.Res.159, a resolution honoring the members of the military and intelligence community who carried out the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Palestinian Unity Agreement
Along with 26 other Democratic Senators, Senator Nelson wrote President Obama to express concern about the Fatah-Hamas unity government and the implications of such an agreement on the Middle East peace effort and on U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority. The letter also highlights Hamas’s condemnation of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the U.S. to underscore Hamas’s ideology and support for terrorism. It urges President Obama to make it clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States – including its receipt of U.S. aid.
Director of Outreach: Lynn Bannister
111 North Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
850-942-8415 / 850-942-8450 (fax)
FYI - From time to time, our Senate staff compiles electronic news briefs highlighting key issues and hot topics of particular importance to Floridians. If you'd like to receive these free "E-Briefs," visit Bill's web site at http://billnelson.senate.gov/ and click on the "E-Briefs" button.
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