House Approves Stopgap Spending Measure; Senate to Act on Measure Next Week to Avoid Government Shutdown
House Approves Portable Fuel Container Safety Act, CO Poisoning Prevention Act
Senate Votes to Reauthorize September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
On Tuesday, July 23rd, the Senate approved H.R. 1327, the Never Forget The Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, And Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act by a vote of 97-2. The legislation fully funds and permanently reauthorizes the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The House overwhelmingly approved the bill on July 12th with a vote of 402-12.
The bill will now be sent to the White House for the President’s signature.
Senators Collins and Cardin Introduce Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act
On Tuesday, July 23rd, Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Benjamin Cardin (MD) introduced S. 2214, the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act (VESRRA). The legislation simplifies how Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAPs) benefiting volunteer emergency personnel are taxed.
LOSAPs are important to the volunteer fire service, allowing fire departments to offer incentives, including retirement savings plans, to recruit and retain veteran volunteer firefighters. Approximately 20 percent of volunteer firefighters are enrolled in a LOSAP plan. Currently, the tax code specifies that a LOSAP is not an eligible deferred compensation plan. VESRRA would solve this problem by allowing LOSAPs to operate as traditional employer retirement plans, making contributions tax-deferred, guaranteed, and portable.
S. 2214 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
House Votes to Reauthorize September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
On Friday, July 12th, the House approved H.R. 1327, the Never Forget The Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, And Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The legislation fully funds and permanently reauthorizes the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
On January 2, 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides medical monitoring, treatment, and compensation to individuals sick or injured from the 9/11 attacks, was signed into law. In 2015, Congress extended the health program through 2090, but only extended the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), which provides compensation to those sick or injured as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, or the rescue and recovery efforts that took place subsequently, through 2020. Now, in addition to the looming sunset date in 2020, the VCF is on track to run out of funding before the end of the year.
Claims to the VCF continue to grow as the number of individuals diagnosed with 9/11-related illnesses and cancers from their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero grows every day. Today, over 42,000 people who are in the World Trade Center Health Program are suffering from at least one certified 9/11 condition, while a large percentage have multiple conditions.
The bill will now go before the Senate for consideration.
House Begins Consideration of Fiscal Year 2020 Spending Bills, Increases Funding for Fire Service Programs
On Wednesday, June 19th, the House approved H.R. 2740, the Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Defense, State, Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act. The nearly $1 trillion spending package combines four bills previously approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
Included in H.R. 2740 is funding for the National Firefighter Registry. In 2018, Congress created the National Firefighter Registry, a specialized national cancer 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. While Congress authorized $2.5 million annually for the program, H.R. 2740 originally only funded the program at $1.6 million for Fiscal Year 2020.
Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), a co-chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, and Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) sponsored an amendment to fully fund the National Firefighter Registry. The House approved the Pascrell-Collins amendment by a vote of 413-10. The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.
The House is currently debating H.R. 3055, the Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act. The bill funds the State Fire Assistance program at $83.105 million, an increase of 2.105 million over Fiscal Year 2019, and also funds the Volunteer Fire Assistance program at $19 million, an increase of $2 million over the current fiscal year.
Additionally, on June 12th, the House Appropriations Committee approved a draft Fiscal Year 2020 Homeland Security spending bill. The legislation funds agencies and programs within the Department of Homeland Security. The bill provides $47.225 million for the United States Fire Administration, an increase of $1.546 million over Fiscal Year 2019. The bill also increases funding for a number of grant programs, including:
- $750 million for AFG/SAFER (split evenly among the two programs), an increase of $50 million from Fiscal Year 2019;
- $700 million for the Urban Areas Security Initiative, $60 million increase from Fiscal Year 2019; and
- $625 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, $100 million increase from Fiscal Year 2019.
The Homeland Security spending bill will now go to the full House for consideration.
House Judiciary Committee Approves Reauthorization Of September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
On June 12th, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 1327, the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The legislation fully funds and permanently reauthorizes the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, guaranteeing compensation for firefighters and other responders who develop illnesses due to exposure to toxic conditions when they responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The bill, which was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) and has 323 cosponsors, will now go the full House for consideration. Identical legislation, S. 546, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).
Nominations Being Accepted for the Public Safety Medal of Valor
In 2001, Congress approved legislation to create the Public Safety Medal of Valor. The award is the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer, which includes members of the fire and emergency services. The award presentation is conducted annually during a special ceremony at the White House by the President or Vice President. The most recent ceremony took place on May 22nd.
Nominations must be submitted by the chief executive officer of the nominee’s employing agency. Click here for additional details. Nominations are due by 11:59 pm on July 31, 2019.
Please share this information with the appropriate fire service officials if you know of firefighters who are worthy of consideration.
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.