Fire & Emergency Services Institute issues legislative initiatives
In Pennyslvania, the House
& Senate are in session January 23, 24, 29-31 and February 5-7, 12
& 13. The following is a recap of the fire & emergency service
bills during the final 1999-2000 legislative session. Any bill that
did not pass in 2000 must be reintroduced in 2001.
Emergency Shut-off Controls
at Self-Service Gas Stations
House Bill 1473, by Rep.
Stern, increases the distance from the attendant to the control shut-off
switch at the pump. Current NFPA standard, adopted in 1982, is 100
feet. The bill expands this requirement to 125 feet and includes
a requirement for the operator of self-service stations to familiarize
employees with the location and operation of the station's emergency fuel
shut-off switch. Rep. Petrarca's idea for color coding gas and kerosene
containers (red-gas, blue kerosene) was added. Both amendments were
supported unanimously at the February 12, 2000 Statewide Advisory Board
meeting. House Bill 1473 passed the House June 13 with the fire safety
amendment and passed the Senate October 11. The Governor signed the
bill into law as Act 74 of 2000.
The Commonwealth's successful
$25 million program, $22 for volunteer fire companies and $3 million for
volunteer ambulance services, was recently completed. The Governor
signed the bill into law June 22 as Act 66 of 2000. The Office of the State
Fire Commissioner administered the program.
Applications were sent to
volunteer fire companies and EMS groups. As of September 6, 2000,
2,252 volunteer fire companies and 445 volunteer ambulance services have
applied. Grants from $2,500 to $15,000 were available for volunteer
fire companies and up to $10,000 for volunteer ambulance units.
The Executive Committee (State
Presidents) of the Statewide Advisory Board met Dec 1, 2000 and recommended
the continuation and expansion of the grant program for 2001.
Blood Bourne Pathogen
House Bill 1537 includes
coroners in receiving HIV related information. Emergency service organizations
would like this bill amended to allow the coroner to release this vital
information to public safety personnel who may have been exposed.
The bill was referred to the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee.
House Bill 1728 amends Act
165 of 1990 was introduced earlier this session after the Concept Sciences
explosion, which killed five people near Allentown in 1999. State
and local emergency management agencies were unaware of the presence of
certain hazardous chemicals on-site at this facility. The intent
of House Bill 1728 is to strengthen the reporting requirements for hazardous
substances and create an enhanced system of accountability for hazardous
substances located in the Commonwealth. Public hearings were held
to gauge the opinions and suggestions of emergency service leaders.
Tim Campbell testified on behalf of the Institute. The bill passed
the House and Senate. The Governor signed the bill into law as Act 121
Access to 911 Tapes
Senate Bill 1333 introduced
by Sen. Greenleaf would provide for access to public records including
911 tapes. The bill was referred to the State Government Committee
March 14. Senator Greenleaf's staff has indicated a willingness to
review any suggestions for improving the bill. The Statewide Advisory
Board voted to oppose the bill as currently written.
Motorcycle Helmet Repeal
House Bill 1239 would require
the General Assembly to "examine the fiscal impact associated with uninsured,
un-helmeted motorcycle operators." House Bill 1239 would allow individuals
to ride without helmets if they are 21 years of age, have been licensed
as a motorcycle operator for at least two years and have completed a safety
course. The bill also allows passengers to
ride without helmets if
the operator meets the same requirements. The Statewide Advisory
Board voted unanimously to OPPOSE the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law.
The House amended a Senate Bill Nov. 21, with the repeal language.
The bill passed the House. However, it was not voted in the Senate.
Fire/EMS Training Credit
Rep. Haluska has introduced
House Bill 2350 to permit school districts to add Firefighter I and EMT
training to high school curricula as credit earning courses. House
Bill 2350 was referred to the Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness
Emergency Vehicle Lighting
Rep. Geist, Chairman of the
House Transportation Committee, has proposed amending Title 75, Motor Vehicle
Code. House Bill 2320 was referred to the Transportation Committee November
13. A new light bill will be introduced in 2001.
EMS Response Area Designations
Rep. Benninghoff introduced
House Bill 2502, which gives municipalities and counties greater authority
over EMS response areas. The House Veterans Affairs & Emergency
Preparedness Committee held another public hearing on this issue. The Ambulance
Association conducted focus group sessions on this proposal during the
past year. The Statewide Advisory Board voted February 12, 2000 to
support the Benninghoff proposal including QRS language. A new bill
is expected in 2001.
Fines Doubled in Emergency
Rep. Schroder's House Bill
2053, would double motor vehicle fines in emergency scenes similar to increased
fines in road construction areas, passed the House February 15.
House Bill 2053 has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.
This legislation was developed
following the tragedy in Chester County when Firefighter David Good was
killed working a vehicle accident along the Turnpike last year and other
traffic accidents involving emergency responders. Senator Madigan
successfully attached most of the language contained in House Bill 2053
to an omnibus transportation bill, Senate Bill 1470, which then passed
the Senate and the House.
The Governor vetoed the omnibus
transportation bill because, "While the majority of the changes in the
amendment would improve the administration of the Department of Transportation
and promote the safe operation of vehicles on the Commonwealth's highways,
the inclusion of various special registration plates and the prohibition
against the enactment or enforcement of size and weight restrictions by
municipal governments compels me to withhold my approval of House Bill
Billing for Emergency
House Bill 951 allows the
court to order a person convicted of making a bomb threat, (misdemeanor
of the first degree for a first offense and a felony for the third degree
for a second or subsequent offense), to reimburse the state, county or
municipal corporation for costs incurred for emergency response resources.
The bill passed the House. The Senate amended the bill to include
language that prohibits convicted arsonists from membership in volunteer
Rep. Vance has introduced
House Bill 2452 as the "Emergency Services Reimbursement Act." House
Bill 2452 would make an individual liable for actual and reasonable response
costs unless a fire tax is in place or a monetary contribution has been
made during the past year.
House Bill 1347, Rep. Clymer's
legislation, would create a process for reimbursing emergency service response
organizations for "reasonable costs." House Bill 1347 establishes a county
based office of emergency services reimbursement to process reimbursement
claims. The bill was referred to the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency
Preparedness Committee. A public
hearing on billing was held
May 4, 2000 at the West Hanover Fire Company, Dauphin County. The
Institute has initiated a statewide survey regarding fire company billing
practices. Visit www.pfsi.org to complete the survey and review results.
The Statewide Advisory Board formed a Billing Task Force at the August
meeting. Contact the Institute to serve on this special task force.
Rep. Wojnaroski has introduced
House Bill 1788 requiring insurers of motor vehicles to include coverage
providing for a benefit for essential services performed and costs incurred.
Sales Tax Exclusion for
Fire Prevention & Safety Equipment
Senator Hart, Chairman of
the Senate Finance Committee, introduced Senate Bill 1294 to provide a
sales tax exemption for fire prevention and safety equipment like fire
sprinklers, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Senate Bill 1294 never
passed the Senate Finance Committee. A new sponsor will be needed
for 2001 because Senator Hart won election to the U.S.
Small Games of Chance
Senate Bill 648 would extend
the prize limits in the Small Games of Chance Law. Currently the
total cash value of all prizes for a raffle is $25,000. Senate Bill 648
expands that limit to $100,000. This proposal passed the Senate &
the House. The Governor signed the bill into law as Act 79 of 2000.
Audit Requirement for
House Bill 1150 would amend
Act 202 of 1990, specifically the section dealing with financial statements
and reports of charitable organizations. The bill proposes to change
the review and audit thresholds found in current law. House Bill 1150 passed
the House and was amended in the Senate to EXEMPT volunteer fire and emergency
services from the registration requirements of Act 202. The amended
bill passed the Senate and the House. Governor Ridge vetoed the bill.
Do Not Resuscitate
Rep. Fleagale's DNR legislation,
House Bill 96, establishes advance directives for emergency medical service
health care. House Bill 96 passed the House June 15 (200-0) and was
referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Penalties for more than three
false alarms in a consecutive twelve-month period are now contained in
Pennsylvania Law. Upon conviction, fines will not exceed $300.
In the bill, a "Public Safety agency" is defined as "The Pennsylvania State
Police or any municipal police or fire department." Fines would be
paid to the municipality or the State Police depending upon which agency
responded. The law also requires prior written approval from
a public safety agency for anyone to attach or use an automatic dialing
device. The Governor signed this bill into law as Act 70 of 1998.
Rep. Barley introduced House
Bill 1061 to add a "corrective action" clause whereby a certified alarm
provider makes an on-site inspection. The bill passed the House November
15, 1999. An amendment was added which allows current local false
alarm ordinances to supersede state law if the local ordinance is more
restrictive. Another amendment now contained in the bill requires
local municipalities to establish a special fine fund to be distributed
to local fire, police and EMS entities. House Bill 1061 was considered
in the Senate. However, no final vote was taken.
Sprinkler Standby Fees
House Bill 71 and House Bill
72 would prohibit water authorities from charging "standby fees".
The bills have been referred to the House Local Government Committee &
Consumer Affairs Committee respectively. Pennsylvania Chapters of
the National Fire Sprinkler Association are urging the House to move the
bills out of committee. The Institute formed a Demand Tariff Task
Force. The Task Force
will make a presentation to the Water Systems Technical Assistance Center
(TAC) Board meeting January 25, 11 AM, Rachel Carson State Office Building.
Sprinkler Loan Program
for High Rises
Senator Charlie Dent has
introduced legislation to establish a low interest loan fund for the installation
of sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings. Senate Bill 868 was referred
to the Senate Labor & Industry Committee.
Rep. MeGheean introduced
House Bill 2458. The committee conducted public hearings May 31,
July 20, & Sept. 20 on sprinklering dorms and high-rise student housing.
Institute president Don Konkle, past Advisory Board chairman Walt Wise
and NFSA's Aus Marburger offered testimony. House Bill 2458 passed
the House 190-1 October 11. It was referred to the Senate Labor &
Industry Committee. A new bill will be introduced in early 2001.
A rally will be held in the State Capitol building Tuesday, January 23,
2001, 11 AM. All emergency service personnel are invited to attend and
support for this issue.
Senator Waugh & Senate
Boscola introduced Resolution 132 requiring the Legislative Budget &
Finance Committee to conduct a feasibility study of municipalities establishing
and implementing ordinances to identify high-rise buildings and college
dormitories that lack fire protection systems, to require the installation
of such systems, and to make a report to the Labor & Industry Committee.
The Resolution passed unanimously March 20, the day after the fatal fraternity
house fire in Bloomsburg. The study was due November 30. The
Institute will attend the LBFC meeting announcing the release of the report
January 24, 2001, 9:30 AM, room 8E-B Capitol East Wing.
Senate Bill 884, Senator
Greenleaf, provides for the prevention, detection, treatment and follow-up
of cases of hepatitis B among firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical
technicians, ambulance responders and health professionals. The bill
was referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
The Institute has joined
the Hepatitis C Coalition to assist with public education and awareness
of this important issue. Rep. O'Brien, Chairman of the House Health
& Human Services Committee, conducted a public hearing on the impact
of this disease on fire & emergency service personnel January 21 in
Philadelphia. A second hearing was held with the Labor Relations
Committee October 17 in Harrisburg. The legislature included $2 million
in the state budget for testing and treatment for firefighters. PEMA
is administering this program.
State System of Higher
Education Funding Assistance
Rep. E.Z. Taylor has introduced
House Bill 594 to permit state universities to enter into agreements with
emergency services providing protection to their campuses. Under
the proposal, universities may offer funding for their local emergency
services provider by multiplying their full-time equivalent enrollment
figure by $5. House Bill 594 passed the Education Committee.
Volunteer fire company and
ambulance services are now EXEMPT from the Food Employee Certification
Law. However, a voluntary program will be developed. House Bill 2216
passed the House and the Senate November 21. The Governor signed
the bill as Act 124 of 2000.
Voters in a number of area
communities will go to polls Saturday to decide issues that include bond
proposals and fire safety.