This week, the U.S. Senate passed the “Coast Guard Authorization Act” with the support of both of Florida’s two senators.
The Senate passed the bill on a 94 to 6 vote with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., backing the legislation.
The bill authorizes around $10.6 billion for the Coast Guard, increasing its budget by 16 percent. The legislation also includes an agreement on Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) which will have the EPA create ballast water and other vessel discharge standards while ensuring no states can have stricter standards than EPA guidelines.
Nelson helped write the bill and took to the Senate floor on Tuesday .
“This is a good bill and one we can be proud of,” Nelson said. “Passing it will ensure the Coast Guard has the tools it needs to continue to carry out its many important missions, including its maritime rescue, disaster response and drug interdiction roles so many Americans have come to depend on.”
Nelson also praised the Coast Guard for its work in Florida in recent weeks.
“Just last month I saw firsthand the Coast Guard’s efforts in protecting life and property following Hurricane Michael. Coast Guard ships, planes and helicopters came from across the country to help hundreds of people on the Florida Panhandle. The Coast Guard, as always, was there to assist,” Nelson said.
Rubio praised the bill, including the VIDA agreement wit his office noting it “will create a national, uniform standard for regulating ballast water and other incidental discharges from vessels and exempts small commercial vessels from burdensome regulations.”
“The Coast Guard plays a vital role in protecting our homeland’s security throughout our nation and across Florida’s waterways,” Rubio said on Thursday. “Enacting the VIDA provision I championed will allow American vessel operators to do their jobs without burdensome regulations and bureaucratic red tape. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I look forward to securing more funding for the men and women of the Coast Guard so that we can continue to provide critical disaster relief, prevent drug smuggling and promote our national security interests.”
The bill now heads to the U.S. House where another member of the Florida delegation could play a key role. Back in September, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn., the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, named freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., as chairman of the U.S. House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. The House is expected to pass the bill by the end of the year.