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CONGRESS PASSES DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT; REAUTHORIZES FIRE SERVICE PROGRAMS

On Friday, December 21st, the Senate approved the conference report to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act. The House approved the conference report on Thursday, December 20th. In addition to authorizing appropriation for the Department of Defense, the bill had a number of provisions of importance to the nations fire and emergency services. During Senate consideration of the legislation, the Senate approved an amendment sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT), and co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (ME), Thomas Carper (DE) and Scott Brown (MA), authorizing funding for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), as well as the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2017. Also during consideration of the legislation, the Senate approved an amendment offered by Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) that made several changes to the Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) program, including providing mandatory funding for disability benefits, expanding coverage to certain non-profit EMS providers, and the addition of vascular rupture under the causes of death covered by the Hometown Heroes provisions. H.R. 4310 will now go to the White House for President Obamas signature.