Jones backs bills aimed decreasing robocalls, disaster relief and defense

Published 3:41 pm Friday, May 24, 2019

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, lent his vote to a diverse slate of bills, including one that would empower the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy fines against companies that violate telemarketing restrictions, as well as the annual defense bill and a long sought-after disaster relief compromise.

The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, co-sponsored by Jones, cleared the Senate Thursday by a vote of 97-1.

“Robocalls are not only annoying, inconvenient and unwelcome – they can also be dangerous because the intent behind these calls is to scam people,” Jones said. “This bill is a good first step to put these fraudsters on notice and stop them from bothering folks with never-ending fake phone calls.”

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The bill provides regulators with more time to track down scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties on those who are caught, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption and brings together federal agencies and state attorneys general to evaluate policies and resources needed to better prosecute offenders.

Further, the bill gives the FCC more flexibility to enforce rules and allows for $10,000 in fines, per call, for those who intentionally break telemarketing restrictions.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jones took part in approving the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a number of provisions and Alabama priorities.

“In addition to a 3.1 percent pay raise for our troops, the largest in a decade, this bill will benefit communities across the state, from Huntsville and Anniston to Montgomery and Mobile,” Jones said. “The fact that this bill authorizes so many Alabama priorities is a testament to the importance of Alabama’s role in our national security and the quality of our servicemen and women. I am proud that my requests for Alabama were included with bipartisan support and I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see that Congress passes this bill as soon as possible.”

Among the key provisions championed by Jones in the defense bill are funding for ship-building, helicopter construction and combat vehicle upgrades headed up in Alabama, including $1.2 billion for a guided missile contract with Austal USA in Mobile; $40 million for impact aid to schools serving military children; $10 million in aid for disabled children in military families and more.

Finally, Jones voted in favor of a bill he has pursued for months, a bipartisan disaster relief bill that will provide assistance for Alabamians still reeling from Hurricane Michael and the tornadoes in Lee County.

The bill cleared the Senate Thursday and will now go before the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I am glad the Senate finally stepped up to pass a disaster relief bill that will help folks in Alabama who have suffered so much already, from our farmers in the Wiregrass to the tornado survivors in Lee County,” Jones said. “This relief will be a great help to the ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts in our state. And while I’m glad that we’ve finally found common ground on this important step, I am disappointed that this disaster bill took so long to get done. We should never allow politics to get in the way of helping our fellow Americans recover from a disaster.”

Jones has advocated for a disaster relief package since last year to benefit Alabamians and even joined with Republicans in February to propose a $13.6 billion disaster relief package, which was ultimately defeated over concerns from Democrats that the legislation did not allocate enough funding for Puerto Rico.

That bill was incorporated into the one that passed the Senate Thursday.