The National Volunteer Fire Council has reaffirmed its legislative priorities for this session of Congress. These priorities were voted on by the NVFC Board of Directors at its Fall meeting held in Little Rock, Arkansas from September 25-27.
These priorities are:
FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program
Although the FY 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill contained $750 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, it was moved out of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and into the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP). However, the conference report does contain the following provisions that will help ensure the program remains successful:
- The grants are to remain a separate appropriation within the ODP;
- The USFA must remain involved during grant administration;
- The Department of Homeland Security must continue current administrative practices for the grant program;
- The peer review process of applications remains;
- The NVFC will work closely in the coming year with both USFA and ODP to ensure that the program is successful and continues to focus on basic fire department needs.
Other First Responder Funding
The NVFC continues to strongly advocate funding for firefighters to prepare them to respond to all emergencies, including acts of terrorism, as long as these programs do not adversely effect the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. The FY 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill provides a total of $4.2 billion for the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP), firefighters, and emergency management; this is $541 million above the amounts proposed by the President. Specifically, the bill includes:
- $750 million for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program;
- $1.7 billion for the Office for Domestic Preparedness' basic formula grant program;
- $500 million for State and local law enforcement terrorism prevention grants;
- $725 million for high-threat, high-density urban areas;
- $180 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants;
- $60 million for Urban Search and Rescue;
- $50 million for the Metropolitan Medical Response System;
- $60 million for competitive training grants;
- $135 million for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium; and
- $80 million for technical assistance, and national exercises.
Hometown Heroes Survivor Benefit Act (H.R. 919 / S. 459)
This legislation, introduced by Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate, would extend the current Public Safety Officer Benefits Program to firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMS personnel who die of heart attacks or strokes in the line of duty. This legislation unanimously passed the House last Congress, but the fire service and our supporters in Congress were unable to get the bill to the Senate floor before Congress adjourned.
Status: Introduced on February 26, 2003 and referred to the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary. Passed the Senate on May 16, 2003. The House version has 276 cosponsors.
The Rural Fire Department Equipment Priority Act (H.R. 1311 / S. 641)
This legislation, introduced on March 18, 2003 in the House by Reps. Mike Ross (D-AR) and Curt Weldon (R-PA) and in the Senate by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), would help provide firefighters with the equipment they need by giving rural fire departments and their cooperators (State Foresters) higher priority when Department of Defense excess property is screened.
Status: Introduced on March 18, 2003 and referred to House Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on Armed Services, and the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (H.R. 1824/ S. 1566)
This legislation, introduced by Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Curt Weldon (R-PA) in the House and Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) in the Senate, would provide tax incentives for the voluntary installation and retrofitting of buildings with automated sprinkler by classifying the systems as 5-year property for purposes of depreciation.
Status: Introduced in the House on April 11, 2003 and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. Introduced in the Senate on July 21, 2003 and referred to the Committee on Finance.
Healthy Forests Restoration Act (H.R. 1904)
This legislation would improve the capacity of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to plan and conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects on specified types of Federal lands aimed at protecting communities, watersheds, and other at-risk lands from catastrophic wildfire.
Status: On May 20, 2003 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1904 by a 256 to 170 margin. The legislation is expected to be brought up on the Senate floor in the next few weeks.
Children's Sleepwear Safety Act
This legislation, introduced last Congress by Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), would amend the Flammable Fabrics Act standards to ensure that children's sleepwear is manufactured in accordance with stricter flammability standards.
Status: The NVFC will again strongly support this legislation when it is reintroduced in the 108th Congress.
The NVFC Board also reiterated its support for the following legislation:
- Homeland Emergency Response Operations (HERO) Act (H.R. 1425)
- The Firefighters Affordable Housing Act (H.R. 2961)
- Tax-Free Compensation for Volunteers (S. 1512 / H.R 1859)
- Firefighting Research and Coordination Act (S. 321/H.R. 545)
- U.S. Fire Administration Reauthorization Act (S. 1152/H.R. 2692)
- Enhanced 911 Emergency Communications Act (S. 1250/H.R. 2898)
Firefighters Affordable Housing Act (H.R. 2961)
- Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act (S. 1385/H.R. 2683)
- Joseph Moakley Memorial Fire Safe Cigarette Act (Yet to be introduced)
- American Home Fire Safety Act (Yet to be introduced)
For more information visit www.nvfc.org.