Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
Several bills moved forward in the state Senate this week to protect firefighters, according to Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Township, who supported the bills.
“Supporting our first responders is more important than ever as Pennsylvania continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he was quoted in a press release. “All of these bills have received bipartisan support so far, and I hope we can finally pass these bills to support our brave firefighters.”
Senate Bill 987 would restructure the Office of the State Fire Commissioner and allow it to play a stronger role in assisting fire companies with operational challenges and recruitment. Under the legislation, the fire commissioner would become of member of the governor’s cabinet and would report directly to the governor.
The bill would also create a statewide Fire Safety Advisory Board made up of volunteer and professional firefighters to review and make recommendations on issues that directly affect fire companies.
The Senate amended Senate Bill 932. It would eliminate current limitations on the use of funding by volunteer firefighter relief associations in fire companies that are a combination of a volunteer and paid company.
In current practice, money in VFRA accounts cannot be used by these companies for certain purposes. The bill would give these fire companies the flexibility to use these funds for a broader range of purposes.
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill Monday that would provide a sales tax exemption for firefighters when purchasing protective equipment and accessory communications equipment using their own personal funds.
Senate Bill 875 would help address the declining number of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel that is reaching a crisis level in some communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of protective equipment alone can cost volunteers thousands of dollars.
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