COMPREHENSIVE FIRE SERVICES MEASURE ADVANCES FROM COMMITTEE

HARRISBURG – Today the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee advanced a comprehensive measure to improve the delivery of state resources to the fire community in Pennsylvania, according to Committee Chairman, Senator Mike Regan (R-31).

House Bill 1673, as amended by the Committee, includes 13 measures that have passed either the Senate or House this session relating to the Fire Commissioner’s Office, the Fire & EMS Grant Program, the Fire Relief Program, the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program, and authorization for counties and school districts to provide property tax credits to volunteer first responders.  Among the components of the bill are:

State Fire Commissioner Duties

  • Report directly to the Governor and be confirmed by the Senate
  • Serve as the primary representative for fire services in the Commonwealth
  • Develop curriculum and provide and assist in the coordination of fire, rescue and emergency services training, including online training and issue certifications·         Administer the State Fire Academy
  • Assist with statewide recruitment and retention efforts
  • Serve as Chair of the State Fire Advisory Board, which the legislation reconstitutes, and which is charged with reviewing legislation, establishing innovative programming and standards of cover, and operating the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, among other duties.

Fire & EMS Grants

  • Reauthorizes the Fire & EMS Grant Program for four years
  • Places the administration of the Fire Grant Program under the Fire Commissioner
  • Adds the following eligible uses of grant dollars: educating the public regarding fire prevention and community risk reduction; Recruitment & Retention Programs; Volunteer Firefighter Length of Service Programs; Construction Savings Accounts; and revenue loss for grants issued in 2021 or 2022. 

Fire Relief Program

  • Places the administration of the program under the Fire Commissioner’s Office
  • Permits funds to be used for Training, Nutrition Supplies, Recruitment and Retention, Length of Service Award Programs, Facilities, Vehicles, Equipment, obtaining or renewing Commercial Drivers Licenses, and Stipends not to exceed $1,500 per year
  • Calls for the State Fire Advisory Board to review and make recommendations on the current funding formula

Volunteer Loan Assistance Program

  • Increases loan amounts for facilities, vehicles, and equipment 
  • Formalizes the loan application review committee
  • Places a question before the voters in the 2021 Primary asking if they approve of municipal (paid) fire companies being eligible for loans

Volunteer First Responder Tax Credits

  • Authorizes counties to establish Property Tax Credits for Volunteer First Responders
  • Authorizes school districts to establish Property Tax Credits for Volunteer First Responders
  • Permits municipalities to work through COGs (Council of Governments) to establish Earned Income or Property Tax Credits for Volunteer First Responders

“Portions of thirteen bills – both House and Senate measures, as well as Republican and Democrat measures – were incorporated into this bill,” said Regan.  “As such, this legislation is bipartisan and bicameral, as was the 2018 Senate Resolution 6 Report, which put forth 92 individual recommendations to improve our Fire & EMS Services in Pennsylvania.

“While today’s amendment does not incorporate all of those recommendations,” continued Regan, “it addresses a good number of them, and so it is my belief that this is one of the most significant pieces of fire legislation that we have taken up in the General Assembly.”

The following bills were incorporated into House Bill 1673:

  • SB 447 (Dinniman) (Fire Relief: Length of Service Awards)
  • SB 785 (L. Williams) (Volunteer Loan Assistance Program:  Eligibility for Career Fire)
  • SB 796 (Muth) (Volunteer Loan Assistance Program:  Increase in Loan Amounts)
  • SB 908 (Regan) (Fire Relief and Volunteer Loan Assistance Program Provisions)
  • SB 910 (Mastriano) (Fire & EMS Grant Reauthorization)
  • SB 932 (Boscola) (Fire Relief:  Eligibility for Combination Departments)
  • SB 987 (Hutchinson) (Fire Commissioner’s Office Enhancements)
  • HB 1448 (Sturla) (Volunteer Loan Assistance Program:  Eligibility for Career Fire)
  • HB 1673 (Farry) (Fire Relief Measures)
  • HB 1705 (Gabler) (Permits Counties to Provide Property Tax Credits to First Responders)
  • HB 1816 (Schlegel Culver) (Volunteer Loan Assistance Program:  Increase in Loan Amounts)
  • HB 1834 (Sainato) (Fire & EMS Grant Reauthorization)
  • HB 1839 (Brooks) (Permits School Districts to Provide Property Tax Credits to First Responders)

HB 1673 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

For video of the committee meeting, click HERE. 

CONTACT:  Nathan Silcox, 717-787-8524, nsilcox@pasen.gov