|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
With the declining number of volunteer emergency responders reaching critical levels, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week took up a “Helpers and Heroes” package of legislation designed to assist with recruiting and retention efforts of volunteer fire and ambulance companies across the state.
Among the bills passed by the House are those that would allow volunteer fire relief money to be used for retention of existing volunteer members and providing incentives for recruiting new volunteer firefighters (House Bill 1673)
; make online training more readily available to current and prospective first responders (Senate Bill 146)
; and increase the maximum loan limits available to volunteer fire companies and emergency medical services through the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program (House Bill 1816)
Also passed and sent to the Senate were the following measures:
- House Bill 1705 would give school districts the option of enacting a tax credit against the property tax liability of active volunteers of a fire or EMS company.
- House Bill 1839 would give counties the option of providing a property tax credit to qualified active volunteers to be applied against an active volunteer’s property tax liability.
- House Bill 1773 would create the Tuition Assistance for Active Volunteers Program for our first responders.
- House Bill 1786 would create the First Responder Loan Forgiveness Program for indebted college graduates who are active members of an emergency medical services agency, volunteer fire company or volunteer rescue company.
- House Bill 1780 would exempt volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance companies from the Right-to-Know Law.
- House Bill 269 would exempt from the Realty Transfer Tax the transfer of real estate from the surviving spouse or minor child of a first responder, within five years of the first responder’s death.
- House Bill 732 would exempt from the Realty Transfer Tax the transfer of real estate to or by a volunteer emergency medical services company, volunteer fire company, or volunteer rescue company.
The bills also respect the efforts of emergency responders by allowing them to better use existing funds as part of recommendations made by the SR6 Commission, a 39-member commission comprised of lawmakers and a variety of fire and emergency response stakeholders.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office