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Columbia County Observer

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US Senator Bill NelsonU.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Update
December 28, 2010

START Treaty Ratified

 The Senate ratified the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). New START is a bilateral treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States that places limits on the aggregate number of nuclear warheads and deployed and non-deployed launch systems.

The Treaty allows for on-site inspections and verification of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.  START I expired in December 2009, leaving no mechanism for arms inspections.

Senator Nelson voted to ratify New START.

For more information
Lynn Bannister: Director of Outreach
111 North Adams St
Tallahassee, FL  32301
850-942-8415 / 850-942-8450 (fax)

Defense Authorization Act Passes

The Senate passed H.R. 6523, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011 by unanimous consent.

The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives and now goes to the president for his signature. It authorizes more than $700 billion for the Department of Defense, including for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

Continuing Resolution Funds Government through March

Senator Nelson voted for a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through March 4, which passed the Senate by a vote of 79 to 19. The resolution ensures many critical programs and services - such as air traffic control, national defense and disaster preparedness – continue without interruption. In general, the bill keeps federal spending at the same level it was over the last year - without earmarks.

Omnibus Trade Act Passes

The Senate passed the Omnibus Trade Act of 2010 by unanimous consent.

The bill extends a trade preference program, the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides support and training to trade-affected workers.

The bill also includes a second Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB), which reduces the cost of over 290 components used in local manufacturing, allowing more U.S. companies to be internationally competitive.

An earlier MTB (PL. 111-227) was passed in August to reduce the cost of hundreds of rare components used in U.S. manufacturing. The Omnibus Trade Act now awaits the President’s signature.

Senate Acts on Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts

The Senate passed H.R. 6398, which would require the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to fully insure Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Senator Nelson was a strong supporter of this bipartisan legislation.

Shark Conservation

The Senate passed the Shark Conservation Act unanimously. This legislation bans the controversial practice of “shark finning” in which the fins are removed from the body before the shark is thrown overboard, often alive. The bill awaits the President’s signature.

Honoring African-American Pioneers

Senator Nelson sent letters of support to the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee for two House bills that would name Florida post offices after notable Floridians. These letters of support were needed in order for the legislation to move through the Senate.

 The first bill, sponsored by Representative Kendrick Meek, names a post office in Miami after Attorney Jesse J. McCrary, Jr., who was the first African-American assistant attorney general in Florida, first African-American lawyer to argue a case before the Supreme Court on behalf of a Southern state, and the first African-American secretary of state in Florida since Reconstruction. This bill passed the Senate last week and is awaiting the president’s signature.

The second, sponsored by Representative Bill Posey, would name a post office in Cocoa, Florida after Harry T. and Harriette Moore, founders of the Brevard chapter of the NAACP and civil rights leaders who were killed by a bomb at their house in 1951.

This legislation is awaiting Senate action, but all relevant paperwork has been submitted by Senator Nelson to the committee.   

Delaying CMS “Face-to-Face” Provision

Senator Nelson cosigned a December 17 letter asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide a transition period for a new requirement in the health reform law regarding home health and hospice payments.

The Affordable Care Act requires face-to-face encounters between home health and hospice patients and their physicians prior to certification of health care services.

These requirements are designed to maintain integrity of the doctor-patient relationship and cut down on fraud.

CMS announced that this provision will take effect in January 2011, and concerns have been raised that physicians and their patients will not be prepared for this change next year.

Tribal Lands

Senator Nelson signed a letter along with 20 other senators to Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to pass S. 1703, a bill that would reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian tribes.

In February 2009, the Supreme Court held that the Secretary of Interior only has the authority to take lands into trust from American Indian tribes that were “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA).

S. 1703 would clear up the uncertainty over jurisdiction and authority over land trusts acquired by the Interior secretary over several decades.

Safe Drinking Water

A recent report by a nonprofit organization found a toxic version of chromium in drinking water systems of 31 out of 35 cities tested, including Tallahassee.

In response, Senator Nelson met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to discuss the agency’s plans for more detailed testing.

Senator Nelson also sent a letter to the EPA asking that the agency develop a standard for the toxic form of chromium and help local communities test for the metal in their drinking water systems.

111th Congress Adjourns

On December 22, by voice vote, the Senate agreed to H.Con.Res.336, providing for the adjournment of the 111th Congress. The 112th Congress will convene on January 5, 2011.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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