Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

US Senator Bill NelsonU.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Update
October 21, 2011*

Congress Passes Free Trade Agreements

Last week, Congress passed free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Senator Nelson voted for the agreements because they will help strengthen many areas of Florida’s economy, including agriculture, aerospace, telecommunications, and transportation. For example, Korean tariffs on certain Florida citrus products, such as premium orange juice, will fall from 54 percent to zero over five years. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates America’s economic output will grow more from the U.S.-Korea agreement alone than from the last nine free trade agreements combined.

The agreements will be especially beneficial to Florida since the state is a central hub for American goods passing into and out of Latin America. The U.S. is already open to free trade from Panama and Colombia. These agreements create a fairer playing field by opening those countries to U.S. exports, while fostering political and economic reforms in Asia and Latin America in the process.

Fighting Foreign Currency Manipulation

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

 Last week, the Senate passed the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act (S.1619), by a vote of 63 to 35. Senator Nelson voted for the bill to defend American businesses and workers from anticompetitive trade and currency practices.

The Chinese government actively intervenes in global currency markets to keep its currency valued at an artificially low level. This currency manipulation means that Chinese exports to the United States are cheaper and U.S. exports to China are more expensive than they otherwise would be. Outside economists have estimated that China's currency policy reduces U.S. employment by 1.4 to 1.5 million jobs. S.1619 directs the Treasury Secretary to investigate countries suspected of currency manipulation and requires the President to impose corrective measures. The bill now awaits action in the House of Representatives.

The President’s Jobs Bill

Last week, Senator Nelson voted to start debate on the American Jobs Act (S.1660), which would have reduced payroll tax burdens on employers and employees, provided tax incentives to encourage businesses to invest in new equipment and machinery, put construction workers back to work fixing our nation's infrastructure, and prevented further layoffs of teachers and other workers at the State and local level.

The legislation is an important step in the effort to get Americans back to work. Furthermore, S.1660 included offsets to ensure it wouldn’t weaken Social Security or add to the deficit. However, the bill did not receive enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

Working to Stabilize Florida Real Estate

Senator Nelson is a cosponsor to the Real Estate Investment and Jobs Act (S.1616), a bill to encourage investments in U.S.-based Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

Specifically, the bill would allow shareholders owning up to 10 percent of a publicly traded REIT to avoid capital gains taxes on their ownership interest in the REIT.

This legislation would help stabilize Florida’s property market and banking industry at a time when depressed property valuations are weighing heavily on the economy. The bill is pending before the Senate Finance Committee.

TRICARE Prescriptions

Senator Nelson joined Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk in a bipartisan letter to the Department of Defense regarding the ongoing contract negotiations for TRICARE pharmacy services. DoD has contracted out TRICARE prescription services to Express Scripts, who then subcontracts to pharmacies like Walgreens. The contract between Express and Walgreens expires January 1, 2012, and negotiations for a new contract are hung up.

The Senators urged DoD to assist in resolving this issue before tens of thousands of beneficiaries are affected.

Walgreens services 23% of all TRICARE pharmacy orders nationwide and 90% of Floridians live within 5 miles of a Walgreens location.

Predicting and Controlling Fish Kills

Senator Nelson is an original cosponsor of S. 1701, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011. This bipartisan bill introduced last week would reauthorize a program that will help us better predict and understand the causes of fish kills and harmful algae blooms. The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Nelson is a member.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

Senator Nelson is a cosponsor of S. 1301, a bipartisan bill that would enhance measures to combat human trafficking.

The U.S. Department of State estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people— mostly women and children—are trafficked across our national borders each year.

Florida is ranked third in the nation in the number of victims of human trafficking.

This legislation would better ensure our abilities to prevent trafficking, support law enforcement, protect victims, and maximize government resources to combat trafficking at home and abroad.

First made available on October 19, 2010

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

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