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US Senator Bill NelsonU.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Update
Dec 8, 2011

National Defense Authorization Act

The Senate passed its Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act last week, authorizing funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. Among other things, the bill authorizes a 1.6 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services.

The bill includes authorization for $236 million for military construction projects in Florida, including authorization for a road improvement project at Naval Station Mayport, which is one of the first projects necessary to making Mayport a nuclear carrier homeport by 2019.

Senator Nelson sponsored three amendments that were included in the final bill:

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•  Mayport Ship Repair Industry: The Senate accepted Senator Nelson's amendment aimed at mitigating the impact of the retiring Frigates at Naval Station Mayport. The amendment requires the Navy to determine the efficacy of bringing in more destroyers, extending the life of the frigates, or providing additional maintenance to lessen the impact of the gap in the ship- repair industry.
•  Air Force Testing Mission at Eglin: The Senate accepted Senator Nelson's amendment requiring the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report certifying that the increased responsibilities and reduced rank of Air Force Materiel Command's (AFMC's) flag officers will not impede the management and effectiveness of the Air Force's vital weapons testing mission. The AFMC reorganization reduces the rank of flag officer positions that, for example, oversee the weapons testing mission for some of the Department of Defense's most advanced weaponry, including the F-22, F-16, F- 15 and F-35.
•  Protecting Survivor Benefits: The Senate agreed by a voice vote to Senator Nelson's amendment to repeal the offset between the Department of Defense Survivor Benefit Plan annuity and the Veterans Administration's Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Senator Nelson has been working to eliminate this unjust offset for nearly 10 years.

The bill now goes to a joint congressional Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the House- and Senate- passed bills.

Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Senator Nelson voted for an extension and expansion of the 2 percent payroll tax cut that he supported last year.

The Middle Class Tax Cut Act, S.1917, would have increased the cut to 3.1 percent and extended it through 2012. The bill would have also cut the employer portion of payroll taxes in half for the first $5 million of payroll, and allowed a tax credit up to $50 million for any net increase in wages or hiring.

The bill included an offset that would have taxed millionaires an extra 3.25 percent on the income they make above $1 million annually in order to maintain revenue to Social Security.

The bill did not receive the votes necessary to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

Fishery Science Improvement Act

Senator Nelson introduced S. 1916, the Fishery Science Improvement Act.

This bipartisan legislation would ensure that fishery management measures are tied to recent and accurate stock assessments. Specifically, the bill would amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act so that the National Marine Fisheries Service would not be required to set annual catch limits for fish stocks that aren't threatened by overfishing and have not had a stock assessment within the previous six years.

The Magnuson- Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006 requires an annual catch limit on each stock in federal management by December 31, 2011. Because the data collection process takes so long and is expensive, there is limited or no data on many stocks. As a result, many fisheries risk being closed or having annual catch limits imposed based on limited science.

Senator Nelson believes fishery management decisions should be based on sound science. This bill would ensure that science is a priority and also allows NOAA to focus its resources on preserving the most jeopardized fish stocks.

ID Theft-related Tax Fraud

Senator Nelson sent a letter to several genealogy websites urging them to remove the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals from their websites. The letter was joined by Senators Sherrod Brown, Durbin, and Stabenow.

Recent reports have shed light on the growing trend of identity thieves using the personal information of deceased individuals to file fraudulent tax returns. Senator Nelson uncovered this problem earlier this year in a hearing he held on identity theft-related tax fraud, where a father explained how a thief stole his tax refund using the stolen identity of his departed daughter. The findings that emerged from that hearing led Senator Nelson to introduce legislation (S.1534) to protect victims from this crime. Many Americans must file taxes for their loved ones who died in the past year if they file jointly, or if they claim them as dependents.

Sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran

Senator Nelson is an original cosponsor of a bipartisan amendment that sanctions the Bank of Iran and passed the Senate by a vote of 100-0.

 The amendment prohibits organizations that do business with financial institutions in Iran--including the Central Bank of Iran--from holding financial accounts in the United States. It also requires studies to better understand how oil prices would be affected in the United States.

The amendment provides a six-month grace period before sanctions would begin for petroleum transactions with Iran's Central Bank, which will give world oil markets time to adjust. Speaking in favor of the amendment, Senator Nelson said, "By sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran, we will make it clear to Iran's religious leaders that there are real consequences to their support for terrorism and their attempts to develop nuclear weapons."

Release Alan Gross

Senator Nelson joined 18 other Senators in a letter to the Cuban Chief of Mission calling for the release of American Alan Gross without precondition and without notion of compensation.

December 2 marked the second year of incarceration for Gross, who was working as a USAID contractor distributing cell phones, computers, and satellite technology to the Jewish community in Cuba when he was apprehended.

The letter calls for the Cuban government to release Gross as an important humanitarian gesture and sign of compassion to Mrs. Gross and her family.

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

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