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US Senator Bill NelsonU.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Update
August 2, 2011

Debt Ceiling Debate 

On Tuesday, the Senate approved a deal to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion immediately and an additional $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in the coming months.

The agreement, supported by Senator Nelson, ensures the government will be able honor the obligations it has already incurred.

The debt ceiling increase is matched with proportionate spending cuts divided between domestic programs and defense spending. Social Security and Medicare benefits are not affected. The agreement establishes a special joint committee charged with recommending further savings.

The agreement is similar to a framework Senator Nelson advocated last week that combined elements of the three major plans (Boehner, Reid, and McConnell).

Commission on Catastrophic Risk

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

Senator Nelson filed S. 1429, the Commission on Catastrophic Disaster Risk and Insurance Act of 2011.

This legislation would establish a bipartisan Commission to assess the condition of property and casualty insurance and reinsurance markets; the ongoing risks of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and floods; and recommends and reports legislative and regulatory changes to improve the competitiveness of domestic and international markets.

Senator Nelson believes this bill is a good companion to reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program.

The Senator has reintroduced this legislation in each of the past three Congresses.

Tax Relief for Emergency Responders

Senator Nelson filed a bill that would allow public safety employees who retire before the age of 55, like firefighters and paramedics, to make withdrawals from their retirement accounts without paying a tax penalty. Early withdrawals from a retirement account are subject to an additional tax of 10% if the distribution is made before the age of 59 and 6 months. Many public safety agencies require retirement before the age of 55, leaving many first-responders without access to their retirement savings in the first few years of retirement. Nelson filed similar legislation last yea


Jobs for Veterans

 Senator Nelson cosponsored The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 (S. 951). Unemployment upon returning home is one of the biggest issues facing troops coming off active duty. This legislation provides incentives for employers to provide on-the-job training to vets during rehabilitation, and funding for vocational training and increased unemployment benefits.

Early Retirement Credit for National Guard and Reserves

Senator Nelson cosponsored the Reserve Retirement Deployment Credit Restoration Act (S. 866), which fixes an inequity in the way guard and reservists, who are deployed on active duty, earn early retirement pay.

 In 2008 Congress passed legislation to allow for Guard and Reserve members to receive retirement pay earlier than age 60 if they spent significant periods of time on deployments. For every 90 days served on active duty, the retirement age would be reduced by three months, but DoD’s interpretation of the law is that if the 90 days service spans two years and less than 90 days occurred in one or both of the years, that reservist/Guardsmen would receive no retirement credit.

This legislation fixes that interpretation and allows the cumulative total of days counted for retirement purposed to span across calendar years.

Restoring Billfish Populations for Recreational Fishing

Senator Nelson cosponsored the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011, aimed at conserving species of sailfish, spearfish, and marlin. Swordfish are not billfish, and are therefore excluded.

Billfish, sometimes called the “lions of the sea” because they are necessary to keep balance within the food web, have seen stark declines in population. They are long-lived, mature slowly, and have fewer offspring than prey species. Commercial billfishing in the Atlantic is prohibited under current law, and has been for twenty years.

This bill would close the “Pacific loophole” by prohibiting the sale of commercial Pacific-caught billfish and billfish products in the continental U.S. while still allowing for traditional fisheries in Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Areas.

Employment Opportunities on the Space Coast

On Friday, Senator Nelson sent a letter to the U.S. Commerce Department in support of the Space Coast Clean Energy Jobs Accelerator’s proposal for funding under the department’s Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.

The proposal identifies how the workforce of the Space Coast could be deployed in the clean energy sector as part of an effort to diversify the predominantly aerospace-related economy of the area.

It offers a multifaceted approach to connect local businesses to financial and technical resources and provides guidelines for how to make use of the unique skill sets that former Space Shuttle engineers and employees have acquired.

NASA and the Office of Personnel Management hosted a job fair in Cape Canaveral last week that highlighted the efforts of community leaders to reach out to the energy industry and transition aerospace workers to the clean energy field.

More than 500 people were in attendance before noon, and more than 60 employers participated.

Nelson to Regulators: Enforce Rules against Oil Speculation

Senator Nelson signed on to a letter that urges Commissioners at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to avoid additional delay in setting a cap on speculative trading in the energy futures market. The Dodd-Frank Act directs the CFTC to establish position limits, or hard caps, on speculative trading, which drives up the price of gas apart from supply and demand. The CFTC has delayed a vote on a establishing those limits because of disagreements among the agency’s Commissioners and a lack of necessary funding.

Refunding Aviation Taxes

Senator Nelson, along with six of his Senate colleagues, sent a letter to the chief executives of the major airlines calling on them to issue refunds to consumers for travel occurring while federal aviation taxes have lapsed.

The legal authority for the airlines to collect taxes for air travel expired on July 23, 2011. Travelers that purchased their tickets prior to July 23 for travel after July 23 are entitled to a refund of taxes paid. Some airlines indicated they were going to refer travelers to the IRS, thus delaying and potentially obstructing the refund process.

In response to the public pressure brought by Senator Nelson and the other Senators, Southwest Airlines announced on Monday it is “taking responsibility for working with our Customers to obtain refunds.”

Senator Nelson is still waiting to hear from the other major airlines.

Urging Higher Fuel Economy Standards

Last week, Senator Nelson—along with 19 other Senators—wrote President Obama urging him to increase fuel efficiency standards at the “maximum feasible” rate.

The EPA and the Dept. of Transportation collaborated over many months to produce an assessment demonstrating that a six percent annual increase in fleet wide fuel economy is both technically feasible and cost effective for consumers.

As an original cosponsor of the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act (S. 357) in the 110th Congress, Senator Nelson has long demonstrated a commitment to reducing pollution and our nation’s dependence on oil.

This letter was sent in response to industry pressure on the Administration to implement a less aggressive standard, closer to only a 3% annual increase in efficiency.

On Friday, the White House announced its decision to increase CAFE standards by an average of five percent each year.

Omega Psi Phi Marks 100 Years

Senator Nelson cosponsored a resolution congratulating Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. on 100 years of service.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1911, and is the first African-American national fraternal organization to be founded at a historically black college. Notable members include NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, Challenger Astronaut Dr. Ronald McNair, former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder, FSU Alumnus and 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, radio personality Tom Joyner, and Congressman Jim Clyburn. Notable Floridian members include Bishop Victor Curry, former State Senator Tony Hill, and Congressman Kendrick Meek. Other cosigners of the resolution included Senators Landrieu, Brown of Ohio, Wicker, and Hagan.

Sanctions on Syria

Senator Nelson cosigned a bipartisan letter to President Obama calling for increased sanctions on Syria.

The letter urges the President to implement additional sanctions on the Bashar al-Assad regime, especially in light of recent attacks on the U.S. and French Embassies in Damascus by pro-government protesters. These tougher sanctions on the regime include a ban on U.S. businesses operating or investing in Syria, restrictions on travel by Syrian Diplomats in the United States, and blocking transactions of property in which the Government of Syria has an interest. In addition, the letter asks the President to engage with European allies and European energy companies on ceasing the purchase of Syrian oil and investment in Syria’s oil and gas sectors.

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

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