LEGISLATIVE HOT SHEET
The 112th Congress
FIRE/SAFER Grant Programs
The Problem: Many fire departments across the country cannot afford the equipment, training, and staffing necessary to meet a baseline level of readiness. This situation puts firefighters and their communities in danger.
The Solution: The FIRE and SAFER grant programs augment local funding and provide much needed assistance to meet these needs. To date, the programs are working well to improve preparedness and response capabilities, but much more needs to be done. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, Congress appropriated $337.5 million each for FIRE and SAFER, which is a $67.5 million cut for each program. Congress also is working on legislation (S. 550/H.R. 2269) to reauthorize the FIRE and SAFER grant programs. However, S. 550 would sunset the FIRE and SAFER grant programs on October 1, 2016.
The Explanation: If you have received a grant under the FIRE or SAFER grant programs, explain how you used the money and how it has improved your ability to serve your community. If you have not received a grant under these programs, explain how you could use that grant money. Give a specific example of how a FIRE or SAFER grant has helped or could help you serve your community.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to support $405 million each for the FIRE and SAFER grant programs in FY 2013. Also, ask your Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 2269. Ask your Senators to cosponsor S. 550, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act, but to oppose terminating the programs in 2016.
Funding for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and National Fire Academy (NFA)
The Problem: Many fire service leaders have been concerned about the level of funding that the USFA and NFA receive, and whether they will be able to fulfill their missions and respond to emerging challenges. Congress appropriated $44.04 million for the agency in FY 2012, which is a $1.55 million cut.
The Solution: Because America’s fire service is critically important to national preparedness and response, the fire service needs to have a strong voice within the DHS, and fire programs need a consistent and high level of funding.
The Explanation: Explain the importance of receiving training through the NFA. If you have taken NFA courses on campus or online, explain what you learned and how it has helped you to do your job better. Also, discuss why your community needs up-to-date information from the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to support $45.59 million for the USFA and NFA in FY 2013.
Creation of a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network
The Problem: The widespread adoption of broadband technology brings the opportunity to revolutionize the fire service with better access to communications, firefighter health and safety information, and situational awareness. Unfortunately, a nationwide, interoperable, public safety wireless broadband network does not currently exist.
The Solution: Public safety has a license for 10 MHz of spectrum and a plan to create a nationwide, interoperable, public safety wireless broadband network. Unfortunately, a truly effective system requires 20 MHz, and current federal law mandates the auction of the adjacent 10 MHz of spectrum (the "D Block") to a commercial bidder. Senators John D. "Jay" Rockefeller, IV (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the Strengthening Public-safety and Enhancing Communications Through Reform, Utilization, and Modernization Act (S. 911) and Representative Peter King (R-NY) introduced the Broadband for First Responders Act (H.R. 607) to promote the development of a 20 MHz nationwide, interoperable, public safety broadband network by allocating the D Block directly to public safety. The bills also would provide funding for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the network. Currently, the House and Senate are considering adding legislation concerning the D Block to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (H.R. 3630).
The Explanation: Explain the importance of communications interoperability and future broadband applications for the fire service. Mention the importance of having nationwide access to devices that can monitor firefighter health and safety, provide better on-scene emergency aid to the public, and provide video streaming and enhanced situational awareness to incident commanders.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to cosponsor H.R. 607 and S. 911, respectively, and to support the inclusion of S. 911 in H.R. 3630.
Federal Taxation of Volunteer Incentives
The Problem: State and local governments use property tax rebates and other incentives to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) views these incentives as income. A previous federal law excluded from taxable income any property tax benefit and up to $360 per year of all other payments to volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel from a state or local unit of government. This law expired at the end of the 2010 tax year.
The Solution: Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (S. 933) to reinstate the tax benefit and raise the $360 cap to $600 through the end of the 2013 tax year. Representatives John Larson (D-CT), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tom Latham (R-IA) have introduced the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2353) in the House to reinstate the tax benefit and raise the $360 cap to $600 through the end of the 2015.
The Explanation: Explain that taxing such incentives makes them ineffective, and may hinder recruitment and retention of volunteer emergency responders. Further, point out that the number of volunteer firefighters nationwide has decreased from 880,000 in 1984 to 827,150, according to the NFPA’s U.S. Fire Department Profile Through 2008. State and local incentives are important when recruiting and retaining volunteers who must struggle to balance their career and the obligations of today’s two-income families.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to protect state and local benefits for volunteer firefighters by cosponsoring H.R. 2353 and S. 933, respectively.
Clarify the IRS’ Treatment of Volunteer Firefighters
The Problem: Using a "common law" test, the IRS has decided that volunteer firefighters must be treated as "employees" of fire departments and issued W-2 forms, instead of 1099 forms. This decision requires fire departments to withhold taxes from the benefits that volunteer firefighters receive and can trigger other employee-employer requirements.
The Solution: The Volunteer Firefighter Fairness Act (H.R. 2630) was introduced to revise the Internal Revenue Code and clarify that volunteer firefighters are not considered "employees" of fire departments.
The Explanation: Explain the effects of issuing W-2 forms to volunteer firefighters, including that taxes must be withheld and the ramifications of this decision on your state’s laws. Also, explain that the Fair Labor Standards Act classifies volunteer firefighters differently than career firefighters.
The "Ask:" Ask your Members of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 2630, which would allow fire departments to issue 1099 forms to their volunteer firefighters.
Tax Incentives for Retrofit of Fire Sprinkler Systems
The Problem: Buildings without sprinklers are a life hazard.
The Solution: Retrofitting existing buildings with sprinklers would improve public safety and reduce fire deaths. Enhancing a federal tax incentive would encourage building owners to retrofit by reducing the depreciation period for investments in sprinkler systems. Representatives Aaron Schock (R-IL) and James Langevin (D-RI) and Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (H.R. 1792/S. 1035) to reduce the federal tax depreciation allowance on sprinkler systems and provide economic incentives to building owners who retrofit their commercial and commercial-residential buildings with fire sprinklers.
The Explanation: Use an example from your community about why a particular fire would not have been as devastating if the building had a sprinkler system, or how a sprinkler system improved your ability to contain a fire. The NFPA has no record of a fire killing more than two people in a completely sprinklered public assembly or educational, institutional, or residential building where the system was working properly.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to cosponsor H.R. 1792 and S. 1035, respectively.
The Authorization of the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center
The Problem: The 21st century economy presents a diverse number of threats to hazardous materials teams. There should be a central location to gather and disseminate hazardous materials information and for hazmat responders to share lessons learned and network.
The Solution: The IAFC and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have created the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center to provide an opportunity for hazmat teams to network and educate each other about hazmat incidents to improve responder and public safety.
The Explanation: The National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center is a free web-based resource, which allows hazmat responders to share information and learn from each other. It also includes an Incident Reporting System for hazmat teams to submit incident data, which allows the Fusion Center to capture national and regional trends. The fusion center also collects information by deploying Regional Incident Survey Teams (RISTs) to review hazmat incidents and develop lessons learned.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to support the authorization and funding of the National Hazardous Materials Fusion Center as part of the surface transportation bill.
Campus Fire Safety Education
The Problem: In the past ten years, there have been over 140 campus-related fire fatalities at colleges across the country. Eighty percent of these deaths occurred off-campus, which demonstrates the need for better fire safety education.
The Solution: Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) introduced the Campus Fire Safety Education Act (H.R. 1199/S. 620) to authorize a grant program to support fire safety education programs on college campuses.
The Explanation: This legislation would establish a $15 million grant program at the U.S. Department of Education with a 25 percent matching requirement. These grants would be used to educate college students about basic fire safety; evacuation planning; fire extinguisher use; and fire prevention.
The "Ask:" Ask your Representatives and Senators to cosponsor H.R. 1199 and S. 620, respectively.
For further information about federal legislative issues, please feel free to contact the IAFC’s Government Relations and Policy department at (703) 273-0911 or go to www.iafc.org/gr.
Great Lakes Division - IAFC ● 335 Springbrook Drive ● New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663
Copyright © 2013 Great Lakes Division - International Association of Fire Chiefs