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.

Congressional Fire Services Institute’s 2019 Christmas Ornament Design Contest

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) is seeking designs for the 2019 national fire service Christmas ornament. We are extremely excited about conducting this contest and developing an ornament that will capture the Holiday spirit and traditions of our nation’s fire and emergency services.  The proceeds generated from the sale of the ornament will benefit our mission to educate members of Congress about the challenges and needs of our nation’s firefighters and emergency services personnel.

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Exchanging Knowledge to Advance our Mission: Over 1,500 Fire Service Officials Assemble in Washington, DC To Exchange Their Knowledge and Support CFSI

Oliver Holmes, Sr. once said, “It is the province of knowledge to speak and the privilege of wisdom to listen.”  Each year, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) conducts the National Fire and Emergency Services Symposium and Dinner program to provide opportunities for fire service leaders across the nation to both speak and listen.  And it was for this reason that we selected “Exchanging Knowledge to Advance Our Mission.”

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CFSI and IFSTA Announce the 2019 Dr. Anne W Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education

The Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) and the International Fire Service Training Association at Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University (IFSTA/FPP/OSU) are pleased to announce that Dr. Ernest Grant has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education.

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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.

The President Proposes, The Congress Disposes: It’s Time For The Fire Service To Become Active

A popular adage in Washington, DC is, “The President proposes, the Congress disposes.” On March 11th, the President released his Fiscal Year 2020 budget outlining the Administration’s spending priorities for the coming fiscal year. The release of the budget proposal has become somewhat of a political ritual more so than an essential fiscal function of government. Both sides of the political aisle use the budget for political purposes. But at the end of the day, the budget is just that: a funding proposal.

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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.