Hill Updates

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.  

Congress Approves FAA Reauthorization, Includes Disaster Reform Provisions

(October 5, 2018) – On Wednesday, October 3rd, the Senate approved H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act.  The bill, which authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for five-years, includes a number of provisions to reform how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responds to, and prepares for, disasters.  

The legislation provides incentives for states and localities to adopt building codes to protect their communities and ensures that Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) funds can be used towards building code development and enforcement.  The bill also allows FEMA to provide Hazard Mitigation Assistance to areas affected by wildland fires.

H.R. 302 was approved by the House on September 26th.  The bill will now be sent to the White House for the President’s signature.  

Senate Passes Resolution Declaring September “Campus Fire Safety Month”

(October 5, 2018) – On September 28th, the Senate unanimously approved S. Res. 663, a resolution declaring September 2018 as “Campus Fire Safety Month.”  The resolution was sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (ME), the chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.  

Res. 662 encourages institutions of higher education to provide educational programs about fire safety to all college students, evaluate the level of fire safety being provided in both on-campus and off-campus student housing, and ensure fire-safe living environments through education, installation of fire suppression and detection systems, and the enforcement of fire and building codes.

House Appropriations Committee Advances Fiscal Year 2019 Funding Bill

(July 25, 2018) – On Wednesday, July 25th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Act.  The funding bill provides $350 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs.  This is the same amount as the programs are funded at in the current fiscal year.

The bill also funds the United States Fire Administration (USFA) at $44,993,000, the same amount as requested in the White House’s FY19 budget proposal and $596,000 over the current fiscal year.  This amount also includes $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, Maryland campus.

Additionally, the bill increases funding for the Urban Search and Rescue System (US&R) to $45,330,000.  The program is currently funded at $35,180,000. The White House requested only $27,513,000 for US&R in the Administration’s FY19 budget proposal.  

On June 21st, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 3109, the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security funding bill.  The House and Senate versions of the spending bill will now be considered by their respective chambers.  If approved, the appropriators will meet in conference to resolve any differences in the bills. The current fiscal year ends on September 31st.  CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the appropriations process.

House Unanimously Approves Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

(June 22, 2018) – Earlier today, the House unanimously approved H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  The bipartisan legislation creates a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources needed to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.

The House had previously passed the bill by voice vote on September 12, 2017.  However, on May 10th, the Senate amended the bill before approving it by unanimous consent.  

H.R. 931 was introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9).  Similar legislation, S. 382, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK).

The bill will now be sent to the White House for President Trump’s signature.  

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland, Interior Spending Bills

(June 21, 2018) – On June 21st, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Homeland Security spending bill.  The legislation appropriates $55.15 billion for programs and activities within the Department of Homeland Security.  The Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) 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 amount Congress provided for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18).

The bill also provides $44 million for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), with an additional $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, MD campus. USFA received a total of $44.397 million in funding for FY18.  The Urban Search and Rescue System is funded at $35.180 million in the bill, the same level of funding as appropriated for the current fiscal year.  

The Senate committee also recommended funding the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) at $605 million (a reduction of $25 million from FY18) and $512 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program (an increase of $5 million over FY18).  Both programs would receive significantly more funding than requested in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal.  

The House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up its own version of the FY19 Homeland Security spending bill in the coming weeks.  

Additionally, on June 14th, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S. 3073, the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.  The bill provides $35.853 billion to fund the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies.  The bill provides $16 million for the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program and $80 million for the State Fire Assistance program.  This is the same amount Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year. On June 6th, the House Appropriations Committee approved its own version of the bill, which includes the same funding levels.  

CFSI will continue to provide updates as the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations process moves forward, including a more comprehensive breakdown of the funding bills.    

(Updated on June 22, 2018; 10:30 a.m.)

Senate Approves Firefighter Cancer Registry Act

(May 11, 2018) – On Thursday, May 10th, the Senate approved by unanimous consent H.R. 931, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act.  The bill, which was amended by the Senate prior to passage, was unanimously approved by the House on September 12, 2017.

The bipartisan legislation creates a specialized national registry to provide researchers and epidemiologists with the tools and resources needed to improve research collection activities related to the monitoring of cancer incidence among firefighters.

H.R. 931 was introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9).  Similar legislation, S. 382, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK).  

The amended bill will now go back to the House for final passage.  

 

CFSI Releases 2018 Legislative Outlook

(March 29, 2018) – The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) has released its Legislative Outlook for the Second Session of the 115th Congress.  In 2018, 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 synopsis of some critical issues that will be considered during the Second Session of the 115th Congress.

“On April 18th and 19th, over 1,500 fire service leaders will be in Washington, DC attending the 30th 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 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 2018 Legislative Outlook, as well as a full list of current fire service legislation, can be found by visiting CFSI’s website.

Congress Passes Fiscal Year 2018 Spending Package, Increases Funding for Fire Service Programs

(March 23, 2018) – Yesterday, Congress approved an omnibus spending bill to fund programs and activities of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018.  The government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions since October 1, 2017, the beginning of the current fiscal year.    

Included in the spending package is 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 an increase of $10 million from the previous year’s appropriation. Additionally, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) is funded at $42.9 million, with an additional $1.497 million for infrastructure improvements at the National Fire Academy.  This is a slight increase from the Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) funding level.

Several other programs received increased funding under the measure as well.  The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) is funded at $630 million, an increase of $25 million over FY17 funding.  The bill also provides $507 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, an increase of $40 million. The Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program is funded at $16 million and the State Fire Assistance program is funded at $80 million, increases of $1 million and $2 million respectively.  The Urban Area Search and Rescue System is funded at $35.18 million — essentially the same level of funding as past years.

The spending bill will now be sent to the President.  

White House Releases Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, Details Requests for Fire Service Programs

(February 15, 2018) – On Monday, the White House released President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal. The $4.4 trillion spending plan includes $46 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security. While Congress has yet to complete work on the Fiscal Year 2018 spending package, committees in the House and Senate will begin reviewing the Administration’s spending requests for the next 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 2018 budget proposal, and a slight reduction from the $690 million Congress appropriated for the programs in Fiscal Year 2017. The budget proposal also requests $43,493,000 for the United States Fire Administration (USFA), with an additional $1,500,000 targeted for infrastructure improvements at USFA’s Emmitsburg, MD campus. Congress appropriated $44 million for USFA in Fiscal Year 2017.

The President’s plan proposes the same amount for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) as the FY18 budget request: $349.4 million and $448.8 million.  If enacted, funding for both programs would be reduced by  25% compared to actual Fiscal Year 2017 funding levels.

The White House is proposing to fund the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) grant program at $11.02 million and State Fire Assistance (SFA) at $65.93 million. These programs provide assistance to states and local fire departments for wildland fire prevention, detection, and suppression. In Fiscal Year 2017, the programs were funded at $15 million and $78 million respectively.

The release of the White House budget proposal is the first step in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process. Once Congress completes its work on the Fiscal Year 2018 funding bills, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin drafting Fiscal Year 2019 funding bills for the individual federal agencies. CFSI will continue to provide updates throughout the process.