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March 23, 2013

Warren files new bill for fish aid

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren Friday announced filing what she called a “deficit neutral” budget amendment that would provide disaster assistance to the Northeast groundfishery, declared a disaster in September, but without any financial support to address it.

The amendment marked the initial legislative action by the new Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, which also had a fishery, for Chinook salmon, declared a disaster, filed a similar amendment.

Both authorize the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee to revise allocations in one or more bills to create the funding for the disaster relief so long as the changes do not add to the nation’s deficit.

The step is the latest venture by federal lawmakers to help address the economic disaster that has hit fishing communities such as Gloucester, with more dire cuts in fishing quotas from NOAA due to take effect May 1.

On Feb. 4, Congressman John Tierney, whose district includes Cape Ann, announced a different approach to securing the disaster aid; his proposal would tap the seafood import tariff dollars, which had been originally reserved for research and marketing of American seafood under the 1954 Saltonstall-Kennedy Act, but have, over the decades since, been diverted into the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Warren’s co-sponsors of the new measure are William “Mo” Cowan, the interim senator in the seat held by John Kerry before he resigned at the end of January to become secretary of state, Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse , Democrats of Rhode Island, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Republican, Sen. Angus King, a Maine Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, New York Democrats.

“We must support our fishermen in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast who are struggling to make ends meet during this difficult time,” Warren said in a prepared statement. “The fishing industry is an important part of our region’s economy, and I’m proud to introduce my first Senate amendment to help make sure these hardworking fishing families have access to the critical disaster assistance they deserve.”

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