Fighting for Florida
Florida's U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has stood up to Big Oil and Wall Street banks. He exposed BP's deceit about the Gulf spill. He created a blueprint forward for our nation's space agency. Now in his third term, Nelson is continuing to fight for a cleaner environment, better education, economic opportunity, and to protect important programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Nelson secured billions in federal assistance to help Florida recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma: including funding for Florida’s citrus growers, Florida’s schools, and resources to complete the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022. He led efforts in the U.S. Senate to secure disaster funding for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Nelson worked with Senate leadership to include funding for Puerto Rico's Medicaid program in the 2018 Senate budget deal. The budget deal included $4.9 billion in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over two years and increased the territories' federal matching rate under Medicaid from 55% to 100% for two years.
Nelson worked across party lines with then-Sen. Mel Martinez in 2006 to secure passage of a law that banned drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast through 2022; he also filed legislation in 2017 to extend the moratorium for an additional five years, to 2027.
Nelson lead the charge that established the RESTORE Act, which ensured the bulk of fines and penalties paid by BP as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill went directly to the states and communities hardest hit by the disaster.
Nelson authored legislation that created a $125 million Citrus Trust Fund to provide a dedicated source of funding to scientists and researchers trying to find a cure to a deadly citrus-disease known as “greening,” and is fighting again now for an additional five years of funding.
Nelson introduced legislation to permanently cap interest rates for undergraduate student loans at 4 percent and allow borrowers with existing student loans to refinance their loans to a new lower rate.
Nelson promoted and continually advocated for commercial space companies to move to and expand their activities in Florida. In just one example, Nelson played an important role in negotiating agreements between NASA, the Air Force, Space Florida, and Blue Origin to develop Blue Origin's new orbital launch site at Cape Canaveral.
Nelson led efforts in Congress to address the Zika virus, including authoring legislation to speed up the search for a vaccine, pushing Congress to fund efforts to fight the virus, and calling for the appointment of a single administrator to coordinate the federal government's response.
- Called upon the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to devote as many resources as necessary to protect Jewish Community Centers targeted with bomb threats, including investigating and prosecuting the crime(s) to the fullest extent.
- Demanded a Congressional investigation into early voting restrictions in Florida after the Florida legislature pushed through a new law to suppress early voting by African Americans, Hispanics and young voters.
- Prompted a DOJ investigation into a coordinated attempt by political operatives to suppress voter turnout across the country, including in Florida.
- Has been a vocal proponent against the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the border.
- Helped local elections supervisors fight back against a restrictive absentee ballot directive.
- Brokered a settlement between Negro League Baseball players and Major League Baseball to ensure aging former players received compensation for their years of service.
- Advocated and won federal funding for the University of South Florida's research team to bring to light the abuses committed against boys – predominantly African-Americans – at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.
- Introduced the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, education, federal financial assistance, housing, credit, and jury service.
- Filed a Congressional friend-of-the-court brief in support of marriage equality in the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges.
- Co-sponsored legislation to provide an additional $41 million to DOJ programs aimed at preventing bias-motivated conflict and violence, and enforcing federal civil rights and hate crimes laws following the horrendous attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.
- Co-sponsored the Disarm Hate Act to prevent individuals convicted of hate crimes from getting their hands on deadly weapons.
- Fought against efforts to suppress minority and immigrant response rates on the 2020 Census by filing a friend-of-the-court brief in litigation to challenge politically motivated, poorly planned changes to the Census.
- Co-sponsored a resolution that would pave the way for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to guarantee equal legal rights regardless of sex.
- Co-sponsored the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, which would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, including the AR-15 (used in the Parkland shooting) and Sig Sauer MCX (used in the Pulse Nightclub shooting).
- Co-sponsored legislation banning the possession or transfer of bump stocks, trigger cranks, and other firearm accessories that accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon to resemble the rate of fire of a fully automatic weapon.
- Introduced legislation to ensure that any individual who is, or has been, under investigation for terrorism is entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
- Introduced the Crime Gun Tracing Modernization Act to help law enforcement solve gun-related crimes more efficiently by allowing existing gun records accessible to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to be digitized and easily searchable.
- Introduced the Eagles Act, named after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mascot, which would expand the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) to help prevent future school shootings.
- Hosted the National School Safety Ideas Forum with Senator Rubio, bringing together experts from across the country to discuss common-sense ideas for protecting our children in schools.
- Co-sponsored the bipartisan Fix NICS Act, which requires federal agencies to ensure any individual who is prohibited from buying a firearm is included in the federal NICS database.
- Championed the bipartisan STOP School Violence Act of 2018, which funds training, technology, and equipment to stop school violence.
- Pushed for the passage of the NICS Denial Notification Act, which notifies state and local law enforcement when an individual prohibited by federal law attempts to purchase a firearm.
- Authored legislation that authorizes $10 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research on gun violence.
- Introduced the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which requires at least one major component of a firearm be metal so that it can more easily be detected in security screenings.
- Co-sponsored the Age 21 Act, which raises the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons from a federally licensed gun dealer to 21 years of age — the same as handguns.
- Fought to secure funding needed to finish work on the Herbert Hoover Dike, and secured disaster supplemental appropriations for the Army Corps of Engineers that could be used to complete construction on the dike by 2022, instead of 2025.
- Worked with then-Sen. Mel Martinez to get Congress to pass a law that currently bans offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico near Florida's coast through June 30, 2022; and has filed legislation to permanently extend that moratorium to prohibit drilling off Florida's Atlantic Coast.
- Championed the Water Resources Development Act in 2016 that authorized the Central Everglades Planning Project that will help store, clean, and send more water south into the Everglades as Mother Nature originally intended.
- Advocated successfully for the Appropriations Committee to continue to invest in climate change research, and prevented more than $30 million from being cut as proposed in the president's FY 2018 budget, for this critically urgent present-day and future mission.
- Prevailed in working with appropriators to restore almost $200 million in proposed cuts to NASA's earth science programs for FY 2018, including key earth science missions that provide climate data.
- Filed legislation that requires the Army Corps of Engineers to send more freshwater downstream from Georgia to Apalachicola Bay to protect Florida's oyster industry.
- Co-wrote the RESTORE Act, which ensures 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines paid by BP as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill go directly to the states and communities hardest hit by the disaster.
- Authored legislation to ban the importation of several invasive snakes, such as the Burmese python, that are destroying native wildlife in the Everglades. This bill led to rulemaking from the Department of the Interior that bans importation of eight of the nine large constrictor snakes that pose the biggest risk of becoming established in the United States.
- Proposed legislation to encourage greater investment in renewable energies, including rooftop solar installations.
- Authored the Scientific Integrity Act to prevent the intentional or unintentional suppression of federal climate change scientists.
- Filed legislation to help coastal communities prepare for and become more resilient to the effects of climate change. The legislation would make federal financing available to communities that need to upgrade their infrastructure to address climate change related events, such as tidal flooding, beach erosion, or saltwater intrusion caused by sea level rise.
- Filed an amendment to prohibit censorship of words like climate change and sea level rise.
Health Care and Seniors
- Successfully urged Senate leaders to close the so-called Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” by 2019, instead of 2020, and shift more of the cost to drug makers. The move not only helps to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Florida's seniors, it also saves taxpayers billions of dollars over ten years.
- Secured $6 billion to help combat the opioid crisis.
- Supported the Seniors' Tax Simplification Act to simplify the forms most seniors use when filing their taxes. The act was subsequently passed into law.
- Co-sponsored legislation to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 5 years, which would ensure nearly 400,000 children in Florida had access to health care.
- Secured $7 billion to help fund Community Health Centers, which provide health services to more than one million Floridians each year.
- Worked with Senate leadership to include funding for Puerto Rico's Medicaid program in the 2018 Senate budget deal. The budget deal included $4.9 billion in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, over two years and increased the territories' federal matching rate under Medicaid from 55% to 100% for two years.
- Passed a measure to protect thousands of Floridians and other seniors from cuts to their Medicare Advantage.
- Successfully advocated and passed a measure to stop the unexpected and surprise closings of local Social Security branch offices.
- Created the first ever Congressional hotline dedicated to helping seniors avoid scams and abuse. This national hotline continues today.
- Led the charge to ensure seniors already receiving Social Security could continue to receive paper checks if they wanted to.
- Co-authored bipartisan legislation to protect people from fraudulent sober homes and drug treatment centers, so anyone battling addiction and seeking help can get the care and support they need without becoming victims of fraud.
Economy and Infrastructure
- Supported tax breaks for ordinary Americans and small businesses, including the sales tax deduction, and an investment tax break for restaurants and retailers.
- Introduced legislation, called the Economic Modernization Act, to help workers and local businesses adapt to changes in the economy, including changes brought on by automation and globalization.
- Co-authored the bipartisan FAST Act law in 2015 to provide more than $12 billion for road and transit projects in Florida.
- Led efforts to create a national blueprint for infrastructure investment, which includes funding to bring our high-speed internet networks, airports, seaports, roads, bridges and transit systems into the 21st century.
- Co-authored the MOBILE NOW Act, which represents one of the most significant updates to the nation's communications laws in the past two decades, boosting the development of next-generation wireless internet networks and helping speed the recovery of communications infrastructure after natural disasters.
- Fought to bring more customs officers to Florida to address the urgent staffing needs at many of the state's ports of entry.
- Fought to increase the supply of affordable housing in Florida by helping to get pieces of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act enacted into law, which increases tax incentives for developers building low-rent housing.
- Introduced legislation to permanently cap interest rates for undergraduate student loans at 4 percent and allow borrowers with existing student loans to refinance their loans to a new lower rate.
- Co-authored the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which authorized research and education grants provided by the National Science Foundation. In 2017 alone, Florida researchers from 46 institutions were awarded more than 500 National Science Foundation grants totaling $177 million.
- Introduced legislation to protect seniors who are struggling to pay off outstanding federal debts, such as student loans. The legislation would repeal a decades-old law that allows the federal government to garnish someone's Social Security benefits to pay off an outstanding federal debt, such as student loans, or home loans owed to the Veterans Administration.
- Supported the STEM Education Act of 2015 to boost STEM education through the National Science Foundation.
- Championed passage of an amendment to allow school districts to tailor educational resources to engage students and teachers in STEM.
- Advocated for additional funding for school districts to provide mental health services, bullying prevention, and training school personnel in school-based violence prevention strategies.
- Called on the Department of Education to work closely with students and institutions in Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, after Hurricanes Irma and Maria to ensure college students there had the ability to continue their education.
Space and Innovation
- Facilitated seamless transitions at NASA between administrations. 2017 legislation co-led in the Senate by Senators Nelson and Cruz (R-TX) ensured work continued on the next generation of space vehicles that are in construction in Florida. The bill extended NASA's abilities to partner with private companies at Kennedy Space Center and other centers, which helps enable developments like SpaceX's recent announcement to expand their facilities at Cape Canaveral. The law also mandated a NASA commitment to send humans to Mars in the 2030's.
- Promoted and continually advocated for commercial space companies to move to and expand their activities in Florida. In just one example, Nelson played an important role in negotiating agreements between NASA, the Air Force, Space Florida, and Blue Origin to develop Blue Origin's new orbital launch site at Cape Canaveral.
- Sought an increase in NASA funding that led to the doubling of money for the Exploration Ground Systems program and related construction at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).
- Advocated successfully for provisions in the Senate defense bill to support next generation launch systems and reusable launch vehicles, which increase innovation in the launch sector while cutting costs to the government.
- Co-authored the bipartisan Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The bill extended the life of the International Space Station through at least 2024 and cleared the way for NASA astronauts to fly on commercially licensed launches to the space station. The law also helped spur an increase in commercial space launches at KSC – enabling the U.S. to become the world leader in space launches in 2017. Florida's Space Coast hosted two-thirds of the launches.
- Authored and passed legislation to modernize the Air Force's launch infrastructure and improve launch operations to make it easier for commercial space companies to launch more frequently from Cape Canaveral, possibly up to twice a day.
- Successfully fought for funding to keep Puerto Rico's celebrated Arecibo Observatory open and to repair damage sustained during Hurricane Maria. Funding went to a group led by the University of Central Florida to take over management of the observatory enabling thousands of scientists to continue research in fields like radio astronomy and atmospheric science.
- Instrumental in passage of NASA Authorizations in 2005, 2008, and 2010, all of which authorized large increases in NASA's budget.
- Co-sponsored and helped pass NASA authorization bills in 1983, 1984, and 1985, and as chairman of the Space Subcommittee from 1985-1991, helped author and pass NASA Authorizations in 1987, 1988, 1990. These bills authorized the development of the space station for "peaceful purposes," construction of the Space Shuttle Endeavour following the tragic loss of Challenger, a number of critical science missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the use of commercial launch services by NASA, and the transfer of excess government launch property to the private sector.
- Joined with his longtime partner Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to write and secure passage of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which continues to guide NASA activities to this day. The law extended space station research and operations and doubled down on commercial partnerships for transporting cargo and crew to the International Space Station, while also authorizing two additional Space Shuttle flights to take critical supplies and science equipment to the station prior to the shuttle's retirement. It also directed NASA to develop new rockets to take astronauts beyond the orbit of Earth and eventually to Mars. The measure also authorized the James Webb Space Telescope to follow in the steps of the enormously successful Hubble Space Telescope.
- Worked to secure a positive future for NASA after the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew. Helped guide legislation directing NASA to find and fix the problems that led to the accident, continue flying the shuttle as long as needed to finish the International Space Station and begin work on a longer-term objective of human exploration of deep space beyond Earth's orbit.
- Recognized the need for NASA to have a seasoned and universally respected leader following the retirement of the Space Shuttle, the emergence of a promising new generation of commercial space capabilities, and technical and budgetary struggles with a number of critical science missions. As the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees NASA, Senator Nelson successfully pressed President Obama to nominate legendary astronaut and accomplished Marine Corps Major General Charles Bolden to head NASA. He then oversaw the Senate hearing and unanimous confirmation.
- Played a key role in authorizing the construction of Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was needed to replace Challenger following the tragic Shuttle accident in 1986, just weeks after returning to Earth as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.
- Co-sponsored a bill in 1986 that established the Space Grant Program at NASA, after being incorporated into a broader NASA Authorization bill in 1988. The Space Grant Program has been instrumental in developing the next generation of talented scientists and engineers for the past several decades.
- Co-sponsored and helped secure passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 and, sponsored the follow on Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 1988. These laws, along with commercial space provisions in the NASA Authorization bills of the late 1980's and early 1990's, established the original policy and regulatory framework for commercial space launches in the United States, and laid the foundation for the emergence of the modern commercial space industry. As of 2018, the commercial space industry accounted for over $250 billion in global economic activity annually.
- Consistently led efforts in the Senate to sanction the Maduro regime in Venezuela for cracking down on opposition protests, taking political prisoners, violating human rights and undermining democracy, as well as provide badly needed humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people
- Restored and increased funds for democracy programs in Cuba and Venezuela. The President's 2018 budget would have eliminated funds for these programs.
- Authored and passed a bill directing the State Department to come up with a plan for better assisting recovery efforts in Haiti following a devastating 2010 earthquake.
- Requested an immediate halt in deportations of Haitians from the United States and called for granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians in the U.S. The Obama administration granted TPS to Haitians in the U.S. on the heels of this request. Since then, the Trump administration has decided to terminate the program, requiring all Haitians on TPS to leave the U.S. by July 22, 2019. Nelson has opposed the termination of TPS for Haitians and called for a permanent legislative solution to address their status.
- Advocated for and helped secure the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.
- Continues to push for the release of Robert Levinson from Iran.
- Pressured Mexico to release U.S. Marine and Florida resident, Jon Hammar, from a Mexican prison.
- Drew international attention to strange circumstances surrounding the arrests of American tourists in Turks and Caicos, and helped to bring several Florida residents home.
- Assisted an elderly Florida couple stranded in Turkey after the husband fell ill during a cruise.
- Advocated for a Florida family whose daughter was severely injured in a terrorist attack in Brussels to be treated at a military hospital.
Helped secure more than $4 billion in military construction to Florida since joining the U.S. Senate.
- Led the charge to eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan – Disability Indemnity Compensation (SBP-DIC) offset, otherwise known as the “Widows Tax.” The offset is designed to remove a dollar-for-dollar offset affecting 55,000 surviving spouses and family members of disabled veterans, who are denied the full financial benefits of the SBP. While fighting to eliminate the Widows Tax, Senator Nelson has successfully fought to increase an allowance known as SSIA to make up the difference. This legislation is strongly supported by the Gold Star Wives and the entire Military Coalition.
- Successfully advocated for the Florida panhandle to host F-35 flight and maintenance training.
- Helped secure $835 million for U.S. Coast Guard costs associated with Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, Maria and Matthew.
- No closure of Florida military installations under Base Realignment and Closure under Nelson's watch.
- Successfully fought against any effort to include Florida military installations on a 2005 list of bases that would be closed or realigned, keeping Florida home to critical national security infrastructure and growing the Florida economy.
- Led the charge to create the $34 million dollar Joint Special Operations University campus at MacDill AFB. The University now hosts Special Operations professionals from across the world making Florida the center of Special Operations education.
- Supported $42 million dollars to fund four Child Care Facilities at Eglin AFB, Patrick AFB, NAS Jacksonville, and U.S. Central Command at MacDill AFB in Tampa.
- Fought to have $46 million dollars allocated to dredging the Mayport Channel to support Aircraft Carriers, as well as, fought for and achieved the Navy homeporting an Amphibious Readiness Group and a dozen Littoral Combat Ships at Naval Station Mayport.
- Authored a provision that would encourage the Navy to consider a port's ability to limit risks associated with natural disasters or man-made catastrophes when deciding where to homeport future ships. Those considerations would help make Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville a natural choice for future homeporting of a nuclear aircraft carrier and additional amphibious ships.
- Successfully advocated for restoring the Navy's 4th Fleet and headquartering it at Naval Station Mayport.
- Successfully blocked plans to retire the Florida-based USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier and reduce the U.S. Navy carrier fleet from 12 to 11 as early as 2006. Because of Senator Nelson's advocacy, the retirement was delayed until 2011.
- Supported the military's continued development of its unmanned aerial vehicle capability and championed Florida as a prime location to support this growing mission. Today, NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport are the Eastern Home to the MQ-4C Triton aircraft and Tyndall AFB will soon be the home of the newest Air Force MQ-9 Reaper wing.
- Shined a light on brutal sexual assaults against female contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan that were going unpunished and unprosecuted, convening hearings on these assaults and eventually ensuring passage of a law that prohibits funding to Department of Defense contractors who use legal loopholes to avoid punishing rapists.
- Pushed for the Department of Defense to invest in the infrastructure needed to increase the capacity of Space Launch operations. These improvements attracted industry and high-tech jobs to the Space Coast. In 2017, the Space Coast hosted two-thirds of all U.S. space launches.
- Advocated for the relocation of 24 F-22 aircraft to Tyndall AFB, resulting in an investment of $44 million dollars to build operations, training, and maintenance facilities.
- Secured $38 million dollars to build a Long-Range Stand-Off weapon facility at Eglin AFB, ensuring our nation's best engineers had the tools needed to keep our advantage on the battlefield.
- Fought for more military presence in Florida and pushed for and safeguarded funds to build more than 700 military family homes, and over 450 new dormitory rooms on Florida's military bases. This brought additional construction money into Florida communities and minimized impacts to housing prices.
- Senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity.
- Instrumental in requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to establish new procedures to better detect, counter, and conduct cyber-enabled information operations, like the Russian attempt to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as the lead Democrat on the Senate Cybersecurity Subcommittee.
- Urged Secretary of Defense James Mattis to prepare to engage Russian cyber operators attempting to influence the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and urged the secretary to implement the recommendations of a Defense Department task force on cyber deterrence, which offered the Pentagon several suggestions on how the U.S. could deter further Russian cyberattacks.
- Led efforts to block the Air Force from cutting or moving up to 3,400 military, civilian, and contract jobs from the 46th Test Wing and labs at Eglin Air Force Base, now re-designated as the 96th Test Wing.
- Strong Advocate for the Florida National Guard and Air Guard, to include successfully advocating for better equipment to respond to hurricanes, full funding to those deployed fighting the war on terror, and upgrading F-15 capabilities.
- Authored and supported numerous provisions that would make it easier for service members to vote.
- Proposed and ultimately passed legislation that would protect U.S troops from predatory payday lenders.
- Pressed the government to cut through red-tape and deploy additional military assets to combat and clean up the oil spill created by the Deepwater Horizon, resulting in the military deploying skimmers, planes and additional capabilities to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Introduced and passed an amendment rejecting any Iraqi government plans to grant amnesty to insurgents who attack or killed U.S. forces.
- Stepped in to protect an Iraq War veteran and Dreamer being unfairly prosecuted for passport fraud. Elisha Dawkins — a Dreamer brought to the United States as a child from the Bahamas — served in Iraq with the Army, and later at Guantanamo Bay with the Navy. Senator Nelson helped highlight Elisha Dawkins' service after he was arrested for passport fraud after accidentally checking an incorrect box on a passport application, and later helped Elisha complete the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen.
- Successfully urged the Department of Defense to take steps to stop creditors from hounding reservists for payments because government reimbursements for service-related expenses had been delayed, resulting in the hiring of additional personnel and putting civilian employees on a “wartime footing” to process the backlog of payments owed to nearly 23,000 reservists.
- Urged DOD to declassify and address details regarding communities exposed to toxic chemicals emanating from World War II-era chemical weapons testing. In response, the U.S. Government dispatched experts to 90 sites nationwide — including ten sites in Florida to identify potentially hazardous sites, and develop plans to clean them up where necessary.
- Successfully urged the Department of Defense to temporarily suspend the practice of sending collection agencies after combat veterans for debts incurred as a result of equipment lost in battle, such as helmets, which could hurt the credit scores of combat veterans, including some who had lost limbs on the battlefield.
- Secured an additional $62.4 million in funding to improve infrastructure at the military's testing and training ranges, including the Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range off Eglin Air Force Base Florida's west coast. The additional funding underscores how important these ranges are to our national security and the need to protect them from offshore oil drilling.
- Successfully fought to reverse a decision by the VA that would have cut $460 million in dedicated funding for a veterans' homelessness program.
- Introduced the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act to provide a blueprint to help veterans more easily obtain licenses required for civilian jobs.
- Advocated for justice, treatment, and compensation, for veterans and their families who were exposed to deadly contaminated water while serving at Camp Lejeune.
- Together with Senator McCain, introduced the Veterans Benefits and Pensions Protection Act of 2003 which prohibited scams in which veterans sign away future benefits. The Act was passed into law as part of the Veterans' Benefits Enhancements Act of 2003.
- Fought for robust funding focused on the treatment and research of health effects of burn pit exposure including efforts to create a national burn pit registry for veterans exposed to these toxic fumes in Afghanistan or Iraq and the creation of a national Center of Excellence to research treatments for burn pit exposure.
- Successfully helped establish the Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, to protect individuals who inform on illicit activity, and ensure the VA operates with integrity.
- Co-sponsored the Enhancing Veteran Care Act, which directed the VA to assess and report on deficiencies at VA medical facilities and was passed into law.
- Demanded answers from the VA when veteran patients died as a result of long wait times at hospitals, which resulted in a law that mandated the VA to reduce wait times and provide oversight.
- Co-sponsored and passed legislation awarding a group of Puerto Rican veterans, known as the Borinqueneers, a Congressional Gold Medal for their service in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
- Fought to make the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans' Improvement Act of 2012 law, which required the VA to furnish a casket or urn for a dignified burial in a national cemetery for deceased veterans in need.
- Fiercely advocated for the recovery and return of remains of Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action, including Navy pilot Scott Speicher who was returned home to his family in Jacksonville, Florida on August 13th, 2009 and most recently bringing home Army Air Corps Lieutenant Ewart Sconiers, a heroic WWII Prisoner Of War. Lt. Sconiers finally received a dignified burial in 2018 at his native home of DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
- Co-sponsored legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the “Women Air Force Service Pilots” (WASP), honoring their ground-breaking military service, which forged innovative change in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Together with Senator Max Cleland, launched an investigation into the military's biological and chemical weapons testing programs in the 1960s.
- Fought to ensure that veterans receive proper awards and honor for service and valor.
- In 2002, Senator Nelson secured the Distinguished Flying Cross for Donald Gill, a former airman who saved the lives of his fellow B-29 crew members in Korea.
- In 2003, Senator Nelson ensured official recognition of the award of a Silver Star to a Korean War Navy corpsman who finally received the award, the military's second-highest, more than 47 years after he helped save a comrade in the middle of a firefight.
- In 2011, Senator Nelson fought to grant a total of 33 awards to fifteen Vietnam veterans for their previously unrecognized service. The veterans had served with a previously classified unit that undertook some of the United States' most sensitive missions at the time. Because of the secretive nature of their work, the veterans had never been granted the proper awards for their service, including Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars, and Army Commendation Medals.
Fraud Prevention and Consumer Protection
- Led efforts to curb the dramatic increases that homeowners in Florida were seeing in their flood insurance premiums.
- Helped homeowners facing health problems from defective Chinese drywall, including pressing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help local governments use the Community Development Block Grant to remediate tainted drywall and pressing the IRS to help taxpayers learn how to deduct repair costs from their taxes.
- Sponsored and passed legislation requiring that Internet-based telephone companies provide customers with 9-1-1 emergency service.
- Successfully pushed prepaid debit card companies and wire service companies, like Western Union, to institute tighter fraud prevention controls to block scammers from using the products to defraud consumers.
- Pressed the Department of Housing and Urban Development to get the private owners of subsidized properties in Florida to treat their tenants with respect and improve the living conditions at their properties. Nelson also introduced legislation to ensure safe and sanitary conditions are maintained at such properties.
- Issued a committee report detailing airline efforts to increase the amount and variety of “ancillary fees,” and proposing legislative and regulatory responses to make these fees more fair and transparent to consumers.
- Issued a committee report highlighting confusion regarding new airline “basic economy” fees, and recommended consumers exercise caution when comparing these types of fares with other economy fares.
- Enacted legislative provisions requiring the Department of Transportation to set rules directing airlines to seat families together, and refund fees for lost or delayed baggage.
- Worked across the aisle on legislation to protect consumers by holding the auto industry accountable for faulty parts that resulted in numerous deaths, including the Takata airbag recalls.
- Championed the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 and passed the bipartisan Spoofing Prevention Act of 2017 to protect Americans from fraud. The two bills gave law enforcement the tools necessary to combat malicious telephone calls by stopping scam artists from using fake numbers on a phone's caller ID. The Spoofing Prevention Act of 2017 also gives consumers more information about the tools available to prevent these calls in the first place.
- Established strict criminal penalties for spammers who send junk e-mail schemes involving fraud, identity theft, obscenity, child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children.
- Led the effort to bring attention to the issue of tax-related identity theft through several hearings—including numerous Aging and Finance Committee hearings—pushing the IRS to improve many of its operations administratively, including increasing its fraud detection filters, consolidating casework operations, limiting the amount of refunds going to the same bank account, and coordinating more with local law enforcement. Nelson also authored several pieces of legislation that became the basis of reforms enacted into law, including restricting access to the Death Master File, removing Social Security Numbers from Medicare cards, and allowing information sharing between prison officials and the IRS to crack down on those committing the crime(s) behind bars.
- Co-authored legislation that mandates tighter safety standards for toys brought into the United States and requires third-party testing of children's toys.
- Authored a provision that requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure portable generators don't lead to carbon monoxide poisoning deaths and injuries.
- Passed a law requiring child-proof packaging of liquid nicotine to prevent poisonings.
- Introduced legislation requiring companies to better handle personal information and promptly notify consumers in the event of a data breach.
- Forced the EPA to determine whether arsenic-treated wood, found in playgrounds across the country, is a health risk to children, which led the agency to agree with the wood-preserving industry to phase out the use of arsenic-treated wood for playground equipment.
- Pressed the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA to investigate whether crumb rubber surfaces used in playgrounds contain toxic substances and may pose a risk to children and families using them.
- Introduced privacy legislation requiring banks and insurance companies to get written permission for use of medical information.