Hill Updates

CFSI Releases 2019 Legislative Outlook

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) has released its Legislative Outlook for the First Session of the 116th Congress.  In 2019, Congress is considering many issues of critical importance to the nation’s fire and emer­gency services. Actions taken by Congress will have a direct impact on the fire service’s ability to prepare for, respond to, prevent, and mitigate incidents both large and small, natural and man-made, local and national in scope. The CFSI Legislative Outlook is a synopsis of some critical issues Congress will be considering.

“On April 24th and 25th, over 1,500 fire service leaders will be in Washington, DC attending the 31st Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner.  As part of the event, they will be on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss a number of critical issues,” said Bill Webb, CFSI’s Executive Director.  “We hope this document will not only be a valuable resource for them while they prepare for their trip to our nation’s capital, but also for their members of Congress.”

The CFSI 2019 Legislative Outlook, as well as a list of current fire service legislation, can be found by visiting CFSI’s website.

Senators Toomey and Jones Introduce Restoring Investments in Improvements Act: Includes Incentives for Fire Sprinkler Retrofits

On March 14, 2019, Senators Pat Toomey (PA) and Doug Jones (AL) introduced S. 803, the Restoring Investments in Improvements Act, bipartisan legislation to restore intended incentives for investments in Qualified Improvement Properties, including fire protection systems.

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-97).  The legislation contained a significant provision to increase fire safety in commercial properties.  The law classifies “fire protection systems” as an eligible property under Section 179 of the tax code.  This provision allows small and medium-sized businesses to fully expense certain types of equipment purchases like machines, equipment, vehicles, and computers.  With the expansion of Section 179 to now include fire protection systems, small and medium-sized businesses will be able to fully expense, up to $1 million, the retrofit of a property with automatic fire sprinklers.    
While this is an important life safety provision, there was another provision that would have further incentivized commercial property owners to retrofit their properties with fire protection systems.  Unfortunately, this second provision was inadvertently omitted from the legislation approved by Congress. The provision in question would classify “fire protection systems” (including automatic fire sprinkler systems) as Qualified Improvement Properties (QIP), which would be eligible for bonus depreciation. QIP includes fire sprinklers and any other non-structural improvement to the inside of a commercial building. This would allow fire protection systems to be eligible for immediate expensing for the first 5 years, tapering down to zero over the following 5 years. Additionally, at the end of this accelerated depreciation period, the depreciation schedule for fire sprinklers would be adjusted from 39-years to 15-years.  However, due to a drafting error, this provision was not enacted as part of the 2017 tax reform law.

The Toomey-Jones bill would restore the intended incentives for investments in Qualified Improvement Properties, including fire protection systems, and make these incentives retroactive for property improvements placed into service since the date of the law’s enactment.  The legislation has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.  

White House Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Spending Proposal; Recommends Cuts to Fire Service Programs

(March 19, 2019) – On March 11th, the White House released President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal. The $4.7 trillion spending plan includes $51.7 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security, a $3.6 billion increase over estimated spending for the current fiscal year.

The spending plan requests $688,688,000 for the Assistance to Firefighters and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant programs, split evenly between the two programs. This is the same amount the Administration requested in its Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal and a reduction from the $700 million Congress appropriated for the programs in Fiscal Year 2019.

Additionally, the White House is recommending significant cuts to the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).  Under the spending plan, the State Homeland Security Grant Program would be funded at $331.393 million and UASI would be funded at $426.461 million, a reduction of more than one-third of the current funding levels for each program.  

The budget proposal also requests $46,605,000 for the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Congress appropriated $45.679 million for USFA in Fiscal Year 2019.  Unfortunately, the proposal does not include funding for State Fire Training Assistance, a program that allows the National Fire Academy to partner with state fire training academies in delivering its classes at the state and local levels.

The White House is proposing to fund the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program at $11.02 million and State Fire Assistance (SFA) program at $65.93 million. These programs provide assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In Fiscal Year 2019, the programs were funded at $17 million and $81 million respectively.

The release of the White House budget proposal is the first step in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget process. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin drafting Fiscal Year 2020 funding bills for the individual federal departments and agencies. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the process.

 

Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2019 Spending Bill

On Thursday, February 14th, the Senate and House both approved H.J. Res. 31, the Consolidated Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Act.  The $333 billion spending package, which combines seven Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills, includes funding for several programs of significance to the nation’s fire and emergency services.  

The Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs are funded at $700 million, split evenly between the two programs.  This is the same level of funding Congress appropriated in Fiscal Year 2018. Additionally, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) is funded at $44.179 million, with an additional $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements at the National Fire Academy.  This is a sizable increase from the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) funding level of $42.9 million.

Several other programs received increased funding under the measure as well.  The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) is funded at $640 million, an increase of $10 million over FY18 funding.  The bill also provides $525 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, an increase of $18 million. The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program is funded at $17 million and the State Fire Assistance program is funded at $81 million, increases of $1 million each.  The Urban Area Search and Rescue System is funded at $45.18 million, an increase of $10.15 million.

The spending bill will now be sent to the President.

Congressman Mike Bost Selected to Co-Chair the Congressional Fire Services Caucus

The leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus has selected Congressman Mike Bost (IL-12) to serve as a co-chair.  Congressman Bost assumes the position following the retirement of former-Congressman David Reichert at the end of the 115th Congress.  

Currently serving his third term in the House, Congressman Bost previously served for two decades in the Illinois House of Representatives.  The Congressman also served as a firefighter for the Murphysboro (IL) Fire Department. He graduated from the University of Illinois’ Certified Firefighter II Academy in 1993 and continued to serve the Murphysboro Fire Department during his six terms as state representative.  The Congressman also served in the United States Marine Corps from 1979 to 1982.

“As a former firefighter, I know firsthand the dedication our first responders show to the communities they serve,” said Congressman Bost. “I’m honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with my firefighter brothers and sisters who put their lives on the line for their communities. I’m humbled by this opportunity to be a leading voice for them in Congress through the Fire Services Caucus.”

“We welcome Congressman Bost to the leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and thank him for his willingness to serve,“ said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “As a firefighter, the Congressman will bring an important perspective to the Fire Caucus. I applaud the decision of the Fire Caucus leadership in selecting the Congressman to join their ranks. I have no doubt he will continue the tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership that has made the Fire Caucus so successful.”

The Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership is composed of eight members – four each from the Senate and House.  Maintaining the bipartisan spirit of the Caucus, leadership is split evenly between party lines with four Democrats and four Republicans.  The other co-chairs include Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Congressman Peter King (NY-3), Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), Senator Tom Carper (DE), Senator Susan Collins (ME), Senator Jon Tester (MT), Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK).

The Fire Caucus is among the largest caucuses in Congress.  Members join to learn more about our nation’s fire and emergency services and the federal government’s role in addressing the needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services.  A list of current members is located on CFSI’s website.  If your member is not on the list, please have them contact CFSI and learn the value in becoming a member.

Senator Tom Carper to Chair Congressional Fire Services Caucus

The Congressional Fire Services Institute is pleased to announce that Senator Tom Carper of Delaware will serve as the chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus for the 116th Congress. First elected to the Senate in 2001 after having previously served five terms in the House of Representatives and two terms as Governor, Senator Carper has been a tireless advocate for the nation’s fire and emergency services. Throughout his career in public service, he has advanced many initiatives to address the needs of the fire service.

“Senator Carper has been a strong advocate for firefighters in his home state of Delaware and across the entire nation. His leadership and commitment to public safety have made a difference on so many issues, enabling legislation to move through the Senate that has had a direct benefit on our nation’s fire and emergency services,” said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. “CFSI looks forward to working with him on recruiting new members to the Fire Caucus and educating his colleagues on the needs of the fire service and the federal programs that benefit our nation’s first responders.”

Formed in 1987, the Congressional Fire Services Caucus was established to educate members of Congress about the fire and emergency services. The Fire Caucus was created to be a bipartisan group where Republicans and Democrats could work together to improve the readiness of local first responders and to jointly recognize their valor and dedication. Today, the Fire Caucus is among the largest and most respected caucuses in Congress. A current list of Fire Caucus members can be found on CFSI’s website.

Portable Fuel Container Safety Act Introduced in House

On January 28th, Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5) and Congressman David Joyce (OH-14) introduced H.R. 806, the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act.  The legislation directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to adopt a standard requiring the addition of flame mitigation devices to consumer-grade portable fuel containers.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates fire departments respond to an average of 160,910 fires per year involving ignition of a flammable or combustible liquid.  These fires result in approximately 454 civilian deaths, nearly 4,000 civilian injuries, and an estimated $1.5 billion in direct property damage annually. Requiring flame mitigation devices to be added to consumer-grade portable fuel containers will help prevent “flame jetting” or “flashback” to the fuels and vapors within the container and will help prevent burn injuries and fatalities.

The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The Congressional Fire Services Caucus – Recruit Your Members of Congress Today!

One of the fire services’ best assets on Capitol Hill is the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  First formed in 1987, the Fire Caucus was established to educate members of Congress about the fire and emergency services. A bipartisan group, the Fire Caucus works together to improve the readiness of local first responders and to jointly recognize their valor and dedication.

Today, the Fire Caucus is among the largest in Congress. It is not about ideology, but rather recognizing and supporting our nation’s first responders. It unites members of Congress to raise the level of awareness on Capitol Hill about the critical mission first responders perform to protect local communities. The Fire Caucus helps members understand how certain pieces of legislation can advance the readiness and response capabilities of our nation’s first responders to all hazards.

Ten years ago, 284 members of Congress served in the Congressional Fire Services Caucus; at the start of the 116th Congress, the number has decreased to 204.  We need to reverse the trend. The 116th Congress introduced approximately 100 new members in the House and Senate. Many of them have not been exposed to the federal programs that benefit the nation’s fire and emergency services.  By becoming members of the Fire Caucus, members of Congress can enhance their knowledge of the fire services and the federal programs and legislation that benefit our first responders.

It is imperative that every member of the nation’s fire service reach out to their members of Congress and urge them to not only join the Fire Caucus, but to become active members.  There are several critical issues Congress will be considering in 2019 that benefit public safety. You can help us advance these issues by becoming engaged with your members of Congress and educating them about these issues.

Please visit our website to see if your members of Congress are currently serving on the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  It also includes resources you can use to recruit your members.  

Citizen engagement is a bedrock principle of our republic.  It is essential that the fire service engage their members of Congress at the grassroots level.  Every member of Congress has a firehouse in their district. Every member of Congress has firefighters who vote in their district.  If the fire service is willing to make itself heard, it can continue to be a powerful force on Capitol Hill in the years to come.

Senator Lisa Murkowski Selected as Co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus

The leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus has selected Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) to serve as a co-chair.  Senator Murkowski assumes the position following the recent passing of Senator John McCain (AZ), a founding co-chair of the Fire Caucus.  

Since joining the Senate in 2002, Senator Murkowski has been a tireless advocate for the nation’s fire and emergency services.  Throughout her career, she has supported the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs.  She fought for the reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and was the lead co-sponsor of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.    

“From my earliest days in the Senate I have built strong relationships with Alaska Fire Chiefs and firefighters – professional, volunteer and wildland. On a national level, I have led on many issues of importance to the fire service. I am proud to accept the invitation to Co-Chair the congressional Fire Services Caucus- a vacancy that was left open after my good friend, Senator John McCain, recently passed. Senator McCain set a high bar, but I am committed to building upon his good work to create a safer future for our firefighters and the communities they risk their lives to protect.”

“Without fail, Senator Murkowski has stood with the nation’s fire service on so many of our issues,“ said Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute.  “Her level of dedication and commitment to America’s firefighters makes her the logical choice to succeed the late-Senator John McCain as a Fire Caucus Co-Chair. I applaud the decision of the leadership of the Fire Caucus in selecting the Senator to join their ranks.  I have no doubt she will continue the tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership that has made the Fire Caucus so successful.”

The Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership is composed of eight members – four each from the Senate and House.  Maintaining the bipartisan spirit of the Caucus, leadership is split evenly between party lines with four Democrats and four Republicans.  The other co-chairs include Senator Susan Collins (ME), Senator Tom Carper (DE), Senator Jon Tester (MT), Congressman Peter King (NY-3), Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Congressman David Reichert (WA-8), and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9).

The Fire Caucus is among the largest caucuses in Congress with nearly 240 members.  Members join to learn more about our nation’s fire and emergency services and the federal government’s role in addressing the needs of our nation’s fire and emergency services.  A list of current members is located on CFSI’s website.  If your member is not on the list, please have them contact CFSI and learn the value in becoming a member.  

 

Congressional Fire Services Caucus Conducts 5th Annual Flag Presentation with National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

(October 5, 2018) – On Thursday, October 4th, the leadership of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus presented 103 American flags to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.  The flags, which had been flown over the United States Capitol Building at the request of the Fire Caucus, will be presented to the survivors of the firefighters being honored at the 37th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on Sunday, October 7th in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  

Senator Jon Tester (MT), a co-chair of the Fire Caucus, presided over the official transfer of the flags to Chief Dennis Compton, the chair of National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) Board of Directors.  Senator Tester was joined by the Senate Chaplain, Admiral Barry Black, as well as senior staff from the office of Senator Susan Collins (ME), the current chair of the Fire Caucus. Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute and Vice-Chair of the NFFF Board, served as the Master of Ceremonies.  

103 firefighters will be honored at the Memorial Service, 80 who died in the line-of-duty in 2017, and 23 from previous years.  17 of the firefighters being honored died as a result of 9/11-related illness.

Details about the 37th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, including how to view, can be found on the NFFF website.