Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate approved the “Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015,” a bipartisan effort led by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and chairman of its Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard; John Thune (R-SD), the committee chairman; Bill Nelson (D-FL), the committee ranking member; and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the subcommittee ranking member.
This bill supports and strengthens the U.S. Coast Guard by providing it with the resources and assets needed to carry out its daily mission of safeguarding our shores and enforcing maritime safety. Rubio has been a key leader in fighting to sever the chain of illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and human smuggling, and improve the effectiveness of the Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts.
The House is expected to pass this bill when it returns to session in January 2016.
“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. “These reforms will enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to enforce vital maritime operations that counter illicit trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people. I am pleased that today, the Senate showed the men and women of the Coast Guard this much deserved support, as they continuously put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of the waters surrounding Florida and of this great nation.
“This bill also addresses a provision of law impacting small businesses who are mandated to operate with out-of-water survival craft,” added Rubio. “Boating safety is of paramount concern. However, a one-size-fits-all model is not only unrealistic, but it can unnecessarily place financial hardships on small businesses. Florida is a great example of where this provision would cause that financial hardship, as our waters are warm and often in protected areas.”
The legislation includes the following components:
- Maritime Drug Law Enforcement – Sec. 314 criminalizes bulk cash smuggling of $100,000 or more of currency in international waters in a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, putting an end to illicit activities such as drug trafficking and human smuggling. Another component of this section extends the power of the Coast Guard to detain those who attempt to destroy evidence of a controlled substance.
- Survival Craft – Sec. 301 amends the current law that places financial burdens on small businesses who operate passenger boats. 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. 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.