HARRISBURG – Several bills moved forward in the state Senate this week to boost support for Pennsylvania firefighters, according to Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry).
“Firefighters are vital to our public safety, but the challenges of covering costs and recruiting members is daunting,” DiSanto said. “These bills were recommended by firefighters and other emergency response experts to keep our fire departments viable in the 21st century.”
The Senate approved Senate Bill 987 to restructure the Office of the State Fire Commissioner and allow the office 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 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 also amended Senate Bill 932 and positioned the bill for final passage. The bill would eliminate current limitations on the use of funding by volunteer firefighter relief associations (VFRA) 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.
The bill would also give some of the most heavily populated municipalities in the state the option to limit the use of consumer fireworks within their borders in order to reduce risks to community residents.
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would provide a sales tax exemption for firefighters when purchasing protective equipment and accessory communications equipment using their own personal funds. The cost of protective equipment alone can cost volunteers thousands of dollars out of pocket, and Senate Bill 875 would help reduce that burden.
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