Legislative Updates

Check here frequently for the latest legislative information…..

 

2018 Legislative Session

The 2018 Legislative Session is now underway. Members of Iowa Firefighters Association Board attended the Governor’s Address on Tuesday, January 9th. Check back frequently as the session progresses to get the latest news.

 

 Printable Updates:

 

 

At the National level….

The bi-partisan leadership of the House of Representatives Fire Services Caucus is currently circulating a sign-on letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking them to provide $405 million each for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs in FY 2019. This would represent an increase of more than $50 million for each program and restore funding to the level that was provided in FY 2011.

Use the NVFC’s Legislative Action Center to ask your U.S. Representative to sign onto the AFG/SAFER funding letter!

Take Action

NVFC Legislative Priorities:

NVFC Legislative Report – January 30, 2018

Prepared by Dave Finger, Chief of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs

  •  Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG)/Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program Reauthorization
  •  AFG/SAFER Grant Program Appropriations
  •  LOSAP Cap Adjustment Priority (LOSAP CAP) Act (H.R. 1720/S. 1239)
  •  Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1550/S. 1238)
  •  United States Fire Administration (USFA) Appropriations
  •  Fire Police Fairness Act
  •  Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA)
  •  Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (H.R. 931/S. 382)
  • Ambulance Transport Add-on Payments

AFG/SAFER Reauthorization (S. 829)

OVERVIEW: AFG provides funding to local fire departments to purchase equipment, apparatus and training. Ten percent

of AFG funds are allocated for the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant program. SAFER funding helps fire

departments hire and retain career staff as well as recruit and retain volunteers.

CURRENT STATUS: President Trump signed legislation reauthorizing AFG and SAFER through FY 2023 into law on January

3, 2018.

AFG/SAFER Appropriations

OVERVIEW: In FY 2017 Congress provided $345 million each for AFG and SAFER, level funding from FY 2016 and $10

million more than President Obama had requested for each program. President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request

includes level funding from FY 2017. The NVFC asked Congress to provide $405 million for AFG and SAFER, which would

restore funding to the level provided in FY 2011.

On September 14 the House passed FY 2018 appropriations legislation providing $345 million for AFG and $365 million

for SAFER. Legislation proposed in the Senate would provide $345 million each for AFG and SAFER in FY 2018.

CURRENT STATUS: The federal government is currently operating on a temporary “continuing resolution” that keeps the

government open through February 8. The NVFC along with other national fire service orgs has asked Congress to

provide $355 million each for AFG and SAFER in the final FY 2018 appropriations legislation.

LOSAP Cap Adjustment Priority (LOSAP CAP) Act (H.R. 1720)

OVERVIEW: The LOSAP CAP Act (H.R. 1720) would increase the cap on annual contributions into an individual’s LOSAP

account from $3,000 to $6,000 and create a mechanism for the cap to increase with inflation.

CURRENT STATUS: LOSAP CAP was attached to H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was enacted at the end of 2017.

Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (H.R. 1550)

OVERVIEW: The NVFC supports the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act (VRIPA), which extends an income tax

exemption on volunteer benefits that lapsed at the end of 2010. In 2007, Congress passed legislation that exempted any

property tax benefit and up to $360 per year of any other type of benefit that volunteers receive from being taxed as

income. VRIPA would extend the exemption permanently and increase to $600 the benefit amount that volunteers can

receive tax-free in a year.

H.R. 1550 was introduced on March 15 by Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA) and John Larson (D-CT). S. 1238 was

introduced on May 25 by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

CURRENT STATUS: I expect a one-year extension of VRIPA to be included in tax legislation that will be introduced in the

Senate soon. This language was added to a retirement bill in 2016 during a Senate Finance Committee markup, and the

committee has indicated that they plan to maintain the bill language that came out of the markup. I am talking to the

committee about trying to increase the number of years that VRIPA is extended for when the bill is reintroduced.

USFA Appropriations

OVERVIEW: The United States Fire Administration (USFA) provides training to more than 80,000 fire and emergency

services personnel each year. USFA also performs research and collects data specific to the fire service and fire service

activities and educates the public on the importance of fire safety. The long-term health of USFA and its National Fire

Academy (NFA) are critical to the fire service. In FY 2017 Congress provided $44 million for USFA, level funding from the

year before. For FY 2018 the President has requested $43.41 million. The House-passed FY 2018 appropriations bill

provides $44.41 million for USFA. An amendment offered by Representative Pascrell (D-NJ) to increase USFA’s funding

by $1 million, restoring assistance to state fire training academies to deliver NFA-developed courses, was agreed to on

the House floor. The Senate-introduced version of the FY 2018 DHS Appropriations bill provides $44.4 million for USFA

as well.

CURRENT STATUS: The federal government is currently operating on a temporary “continuing resolution” that keeps the

government open through February 8. The NVFC along with other national fire service orgs has asked Congress to

provide $44.4 million each for USFA in the final FY 2018 appropriations legislation.

Fire Police Fairness Act

OVERVIEW: The Fire Police Fairness Act (FPFA) establishes “fire police officer” as a new category of public safety officer,

defined as an individual who, “is serving in accordance with State or local law as an officially recognized or designated

member of a legally organized public safety agency…” and “provides scene security or directs traffic in response to any

fire drill, fire call, or other fire, rescue, or police emergency; or at a planned special event.” Fire police officers perform a

vital public safety function, assisting emergency services agencies by performing traffic incident management duties at

the scene of emergencies, drills and planned special events.

The Department of Justice has included, at the request of the NVFC, language in draft regulations that were published in

August 2016 clarifying that fire police officers who are members of a qualified fire department are firefighters. The final

regulations are expected to be published any day, and if they are adopted without modification it would accomplish the

goal of the Fire Police Fairness Act.

CURRENT STATUS: I was told in August of 2017 that the final regs would be published in November. I followed up with

DOJ a few weeks ago to see what was going on and they said they still expect the final regs to come out soon but they

aren’t sure exactly when, or what the holdup is. I check the federal register every few days to see if there is anything

posted and as soon as there is I’ll let the board know.

Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA)

OVERVIEW: VFA is a grant program that provides funding to rural fire departments on a 50/50 cost share basis to pay for

training, equipment, and protective clothing to help them prepare for wildland fires. VFA is administered by the U.S.

Forest Service and funds are distributed by state forestry agencies. In FY 2012 VFA assisted 10,200 communities and

provided training to 27,865 firefighters.

Congress funded VFA at $15 million in FY 2017, a $2 million increase over the level provided in FY 2016. President

Trump’s FY 2018 budget request includes $11.4 million for VFA. The NVFC is seeking to increase VFA funding to $16

million, the same level provided in FY 2010. An amendment offered by Representatives Polis (D-CO), Peter King (R-NY),

and Renacci (R-OH) increased funding for VFA to $16 million in the FY 2018 House-passed appropriations bill. The

Senate-introduced

FY 2018 Interior Appropriations bill only provides $15 million for VFA. The Senate also moves VFA (as well as the State

Fire Assistance grants) out of the Wildland Fire Management account and into the State and Private Forestry account.

They also want to eliminate the line-item appropriation for VFA and SFA and instead direct USFS on how much to spend

on the grant programs in report language. The difference is that a line-item is statutory and must be followed while

report language is guidance from the committee that generally is followed but is less iron-clad.

I have spoken with majority and minority staff in the House and Senate and let them know that we oppose these

changes. The feedback I received was that they are not targeting VFA/SFA specifically but that this is part of a general

reorganization of how wildland fire funding is organized in appropriations legislation. For a variety of reasons, not the

least of which being that Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate all seem to be on the same page about

this, I believe them. With that said, I still have concerns.

We’ll see how this plays out. The staff I spoke with all recognize that that these programs are important and have a lot of

support within the fire service. They also recognize our concerns and have assured me that the committee will continue

to appropriate and track funding for VFA/SFA in a transparent way.

CURRENT STATUS: The federal government is currently operating on a temporary “continuing resolution” that keeps the

government open through February 8. The NVFC is seeking $16 million in funding for VFA in the final FY 2018

appropriations legislation.

Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (H.R. 931/S. 382)

OVERVIEW: The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (H.R. 931/S. 382) directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services

(HHS) to develop a registry to collect health and exposure information about a representative group of firefighters on a

voluntary basis. If and when the firefighters from that representative group contract cancer their profile in the Registry

would be linked to information about them in the existing state cancer registries, which capture more than 99 percent of

cancer cases currently. The registry will be used to establish and make possible nationwide monitoring of the incidence

of cancer by collecting, consolidating, storing and making publicly available epidemiological information related to

cancer incidence and trends among firefighters.

H.R. 931 was introduced by Representatives Chris Collins (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) on February 7, 2017, and was

approved by voice vote by the full House in September. S. 382 was introduced on February 15 by Senator Robert

Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

CURRENT STATUS: Since the House passed H.R. 931 in September there has been no movement in the Senate. I met with

staff for the bill sponsors in October and have had subsequent conversations with staff on the health committee in the

Senate to talk about moving either H.R. 931 or S. 382. I also met with staff for the majority on the Senate committee of

jurisdiction in December. Based on these discussions I don’t sense that there is any real opposition to the bill, but the

staff I met with did not commit to moving it either. Getting this legislation through the Senate and signed into law is one

of the NVFC’s top legislative priorities in 2018.

Ambulance Transport Add-On Payments

OVERVIEW: The rate that Medicare reimburses EMS providers for ambulance transport was reduced on January 1, 2018,

after Congress failed to extend “add-on” payments – increases of 2-23 percent (depending location, urban, suburban,

rural) over the base rate for ambulance transport – that were set to expire on that date. There have been competing

proposals to extend the add-on payments. The main differences are how to pay for it and whether to implement cost

reporting or cost surveying, and how/whether to penalize agencies that fail to report costs. The NVFC has endorsed each

of the competing proposals and is asking Congress to act to extend the add-on payments retroactively to January as

soon as possible.

CURRENT STATUS: A compromise appears to be shaping up that would extend the add-on payments for five years and

have the Department of Health and Human Services implement a cost reporting system to determine whether the

current reimbursement rate is sufficient or not. The draft would implement full cost reporting but minimize penalties for

agencies that do not report costs. The add-on payments would be paid for by reducing reimbursement for nonemergency

dialysis patient transport.

 

 

Building a relationship with your legislators will help you, your community, firefighters across Iowa and the Iowa Firefighters Association. Many legislators across Iowa hold listening posts in the districts they represent in an effort to hear about issues important to their constituents like you. Pay close attention in your local newspapers and other communication from your legislators (e.g., newsletters, facebook, etc.) Every year, Firefighters depend on the legislature to pass responsible legislation affecting Iowa firefighters and to fund the programs used by Iowa firefighters.

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