This week, Congress passed a measure backed by Florida’s two U.S. senators on the Coast Guard, sending it to President Barack Obama’s desk.
From his perch as chairman of the U.S. Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, brought out a bill focused on improving the Coast Guard over the summer. Rubio was joined in his efforts by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
The “Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015” funds the Coast Guard and the Federal Maritime Commission, provides a 1 percent raise to Coast Guard members, allows more authority to crack down on smuggling and provides funds for a polar icebreaker.
“The Coast Guard is a vital branch of our military that protects the laws of the sea and the security of our nation,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “These reforms will strengthen the Coast Guard’s ability to enforce vital maritime operations that counter illicit trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people. I am pleased the House joined the Senate to show the men and women of the Coast Guard our much deserved support, as they continuously put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of the waters surrounding Florida and this great nation. I urge President Obama to sign the bill into law without delay, solidifying our country’s commitment to the men and women of the Coast Guard.”
Rubio’s office noted the bill “amends the current law that places financial burdens on small businesses who operate passenger boats” and offered its take on why the change was needed.
“In states like Florida, where the waters are warm and often in protected areas, the current measure requiring an out-of-water safety craft on vessels is burdensome on small businesses,” Rubio’s office noted. “However, the secretary has the power to review cases in which risks could be posed to individuals with disabilities, or children, and revise regulations as needed.
“This bill...addresses a provision of law impacting small businesses who are mandated to operate with out-of-water survival craft,” Rubio said. “Boating safety is of paramount concern, however, a one-size-fits-all model is not only unrealistic but can also place unnecessary financial hardships on small businesses, especially in my home state of Florida.
“The Coast Guard is on watch every day saving lives and stopping drug traffickers,” Nelson said on . “This bill will ensure that continues by helping the agency replace its aging fleet of cutters, some of which are over 40 years old.”
The measure in the House was introduced by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif.
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