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Columbia County Observer

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US Senator Bill NelsonU.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Update
July 26, 2011

 Senate Passes Military Construction and VA Appropriations Bill

The Senate passed H.R. 2055, the fiscal year 2012 Military Construction and VA Appropriations Act, which funds the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction and family housing projects, among other critical priorities.

The bill appropriates $236 million for construction projects at military bases across Florida, including $17 million for more work aimed at putting a nuclear carrier at Naval Station Mayport in 2019. The bill also includes $52.54 billion in advance appropriations for veterans’ medical care in fiscal year 2013. This is $1.93 billion above the fiscal year 2011 level and will ensure a stable and uninterrupted source of funding for medical care for veterans.

Restoring the Gulf

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

Senator Nelson is an original cosponsor to the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 (the RESTORE Act), a bipartisan, regional approach that would dedicate at least 80 percent of BP’s penalties under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to Gulf Coast States. The RESTORE Act would:

• Dedicate 80 percent of CWA penalties charged to BP to the restoration of the Gulf Coast
• Provide needed resources to Gulf Coast States to start recovery immediately
• Establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast
• Establish a Long Term Science and Fisheries Endowment and Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence

 Based on the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, BP could face CWA fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. Unless the RESTORE Act is made law, that money would go to the U.S. Treasury and the Gulf Coast would get nothing. The legislation is on a fast track--the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will be marking it up this week. 

DOJ Independent Audit of Gulf Coast Claims Facility

A letter this week addressed to Kenneth Feinberg and U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. disclosed there will be an independent audit of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) before the end of this year.

Earlier this year, Senator Nelson sent a letter to President Obama questioning the transparency and accountability of the fund and asking for a financial review of the GCCF. He did so after the Associated Press and other news outlets revealed a $10 million claims payment to an unnamed BP business partner at the oil company’s behest.

Halting Offshore Tax Evasion

Senator Nelson is a cosponsor of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act (S.1346), which eliminates the unfair legal advantages that facilitate the use of tax havens and gives the IRS the tools they need to detect and pursue offshore tax evasion.

Offshore tax abuses cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $100 billion each year in lost tax revenue. As a result, law-abiding taxpayers are left holding the bill. Nelson cosponsored similar legislation in the last Congress.

Social Services for Florida’s Holocaust Survivors

 Upon learning that the Conference on Jewish Material Claims successfully procured additional money from the German government to provide social services for Jewish Holocaust survivors, Senator Nelson wrote the Claims Conference to urge that a sizable amount of those funds go to Florida.

Last week, the Claims Conference told Nelson that Florida—which is home to one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors—would receive nearly $10 million this year. The money will be used to pay for home health care for survivors in Florida, and is more than twice the amount the State received last year.

Looking Out for Florida in USF Reform

Senator Nelson sent a letter to Chairman Genachowski of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing his concerns about the agency’s impending reforms of subsidy programs, including the Universal Service Fund (USF).

The USF subsidizes telephone companies that provide free or nearly free service to low-income households.

While Nelson supports meaningful reform that advances the long-term sustainability of USF and ensures affordable service for all, he continues to be concerned that Florida telephone customers contribute $270 million on a net basis to the USF, yet the State receives only about half of that amount in return.

Nelson urged the FCC to tackle this inequity before undertaking specific reforms in subsidy programs.

Military Schools

Nelson cosponsored an amendment to the MilCon/VA Appropriations Bill which requires the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the status and improvement plan for all schools run by the Department of Defense that were rated as poor or failing in the October 2009 Report to Congress on Department of Defense Education Activity’s Military Construction Program. The Senate passed the amendment and the underlying bill last Wednesday.

Cracking Down on Hamas Supporters

Senator Nelson sent a letter to President Obama urging him to designate the IHH as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224.

 The IHH is a member of the so-called “Union of Good,” a Saudi Arabia-based coalition formed to provide material support to the Hamas terrorist organization. The leader of the IHH recently explained that IHH's Gaza-related operations are part of a global Jihad to overthrow governments and install Islamist dictatorships.

Iran publically supports the IHH. The IHH was a leading member of the coalition that organized last year’s Gaza Flotilla to breach Israel's coastal security. Senator Nelson’s letter urges the Administration not to delay in formally designating the IHH as a terrorist organization.

Iran Sanctions

Senator Nelson joined a bipartisan letter to the President urging him to increase the economic pressure on the Iranian regime’s financial system by imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.

The regime continues to pursue avenues to circumvent both U.S. and multilateral sanctions. In the banking sector, the Central Bank of Iran lies at the center of Iran’s circumvention strategy by facilitating transactions for sanctioned Iranian banks.

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

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