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Sunday November 19, 2017

2017 Fire Service Legislative Day

The 2017 Fire Service Legislative Day was held May 4, 2017 and had record breaking attendance from across the state.  We want to thank everyone who joined us and visited their representatives of the NC House and Senate at the General Assembly.  It is hard to imagine what would make a bigger impact than having over 200 firefighters from across North Carolina show up in uniform to deliver a united message from their constituents. Thank you again, we look forward to doing it all over again in 2018.

Legislative Issues Facing North Carolina Firefighters

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The Board of the North Carolina State Firemen’s Association recognizes the importance of being actively involved in Legislative issues affecting our members, as well as issues affecting the delivery of emergency services to our citizens. By building an informed advocacy network we have an increased ability to impact legislative decisions that impact our membership. Your involvement is a critical part of that advocacy, and keeping you informed of issues insures that we all work together for the betterment of the fire service. Regardless of whether an issue is State or Federal, in reality, “ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL”. Become involved by getting to know your representatives at home.

This is a report of the Legislative Committee of the NC Fireman’s Association and the NC Association of Fire Chiefs. It is intended to keep you up to date on legislation that may affect the fire service and related issues. It is not intended to be a legal description of legislation or its impact. Advocating for or against legislation is a democratic right, and individuals should use their best judgment in doing so. This information is provided to offer you our best estimated input and analysis of legislation of interest that may affect you.

Dates to remember: May 5th, 5:30PM – 8:00 PM Fire Service Hosted Legislative Reception
May 6th, 9:30, Fire Service Legislative Day
The following discusses both the NCSFA/NCAFC’s legislative priorities for North Carolina legislation, as well as current Federal initiatives that are being promoted by national organizations such as the National Volunteer Fire Council. These are issues and have not been introduced as legislation unless listed under State or Federal Bill tags. Any bills introduced either at the State or Federal level are listed above.

NCSFA/NCAFC 2015 Legislative Goals

  1. Priority #1: Define “Firefighter in Statute”.  The definition of the term “firefighter” has never been defined in statute, except for Article 86-25 of Chapter 58 which defines “eligible firefighter”. Eligible firefighter in GS 58-86-25 was written as criteria for receiving a year of eligibility is our Firefighter and Rescue Worker’s Pension Fund, which is actually more of a criteria for a benefit than a definition. However, since it is the only semblance of a definition for firefighter, it has become the gage in which to define firefighter in NC statute. The legislative committee of the NCSFA and NCAFC’s believe establishing a firm definition will benefit all of us and add clarity to the term “firefighter” in law.
  2. Priority #2: Make the use of Utility Vehicles by Fire and Rescue Departments on roadways legal. Currently NC law allows the use of ATV’s by fire, rescue, and law enforcement on certain highways in the official performance of their duties. However, the exemption does not list Utility Vehicles, which DMV defines as a separate class and would include Gators, Racers, etc. While we’re sure fire departments aren’t going to be ticketed for using these utility vehicles, it could cause legal implications if an accident were to occur and there wasn’t a legal exception for their use on highways.
  3. Priority #3: Monitor introduced legislation affecting the emergency services.   Last year much of our legislative work involved reacting to studies and legislation coming from other sources, and working to make them attractive for our membership. This year our involvement will also monitor and react to any legislation that appears to impact emergency services.  This priority will include working with other agencies that may want to submit changes we approve of, as well as any that might submit legislation we feel would have a negative impact.

Put on your Calendar Today….Legislative Reception and Legislative Day at the NC General Assembly

On the evening of May 5th, 2015 we will host our House and Senate members in a legislative reception, where we can share some food and fellowship in a casual environment. The next day we will go as a group to the Legislative Building and meet and greet them in a more formal setting and let them know what our goals are.  Our goal is to have at least one member from each legislative district in Raleigh, so we need our members from the East, West and Piedmont to attend.  Please mark your calendars now and plan to attend. Specific information will be posted on our web site as plans are finalized.

Joint Legislative Committee – The committee was established by both the NCSFA and NCAFC’s Executive Boards to begin addressing legislative issues that impact the Fire Service of North Carolina.  The Committee Members are:

•      Kevin S. Gordon, NCSFA – Chairperson
•      Brain Cox, NCSFA
•      Barry Overman, NCSFA
•      Anthony Penland, NCSFA
•      Tim Bradley, NCSFA
•      Debbie Clary, NCSFA
•      Ron Fowler, NCAFC
•      Jake Whisnant, NCAFC
•      Benny Nichols, NCAFC
•      Chris Nichols, NCAFC

For additional information contact:

Tim Bradley
Executive Director

Kevin S. Gordon
Executive Board

Debbie Clary
Governmental Affairs

2014 North Carolina State Firemen’s Association Legislative Day

2010 Legislative Day

Legislative Day 

May 28, 2014

Please mark your calendars and plan to attend. It has been said a thousand times, and it is so true—legislators want to speak to members they represent. House and Senate members respond best to those who vote for them.  This is a most important time to make friends and tell our story.

On May 28th, 2014, we will meet and greet our House and Senate members.  Our goal is to have at least one member from each politica district in Raleigh, so we need our members from the East, West and Piedmont to attend legislative day.

We will meet at the NCSFA Office at 09:00, hold a briefing from our lobbyist, go speak with our legislators about issues facing North Carolina firefighters, and then meet at the Nature Research Center (Museum of Natural Science) in the 4th floor meeting room for lunch. Please contact Kris at kris@ncsfa.com with any questions and to let us know that you will be in attendance.

There are 120 members in the House of Representatives and 50 members in the Senate. Not sure who represents you and your area? Look them up here.

Legislative Days of previous years have been a huge success. Last year we encouraged the passage of HB 327, HB 357, and HB 358.  We were involved in the passage of the  2013 Appropriation Act which included funding for the Volunteer Safety Worker’s Compensation Fund and VIPER.  Please plan to participate in our 2014 visit to the State Capitol.  Because of the strong participation of our members in 2013, we were successful with about 90% of our Legislative Agenda items.

We need you to participate.  Sign up today with Kris!

Affordable Care Act Call to Action

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NCSFA and NCAFC would like for our members to act now in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Contact your Representative and Senators using this form letter.  You may obtain the address for each Senator or Representative here.  For more information visit the IAFC’s webpage.

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2013 Legislative Wrap-up

The 2013 Legislative Session has been a success in achieving the majority of our top three priority items on the agenda. Below, please find the Issue and Outcome statement for our NCSFA Agenda.

Please take a moment and thank our bill sponsors for their hard work during the session. The list of bill sponsors and those instrumental in taking leadership with the budget provisions are:

Rep. Julia Howard
Rep. George Cleveland
Rep. Tim Moffitt
Senator Tommy Tucker
Senator Wesley Meredith 
Senator Fletcher Hartsell 

A Legislative Update was given at the 2013 NCSFA Annual Meeting by Kevin Gordon.  For a copy of that presentation, please follow this link.

Legislative Agenda and Outcome

Issue #1 –The Funding of the Volunteer Safety Worker’s Compensation Fund is our Number One Priority for 2013!

We must secure a dedicated funding source to maintain solvency of the fund. We are not asking for any tax or fee increases. Current law dictates a gross premium tax on insurance coverage, of which the original intent was to assist in paying for fire protection services.

Modifying this existing statute by allocating 100% of the funds to fire protection service, in lieu of the current 55% allocation, would provide a stable funding source for VSWCF. The balance of the 45% goes into the General Fund under current law. The change to appropriate the entire fund is in line with the original intent of the gross premium tax, and solves the current funding issues for the Volunteer Safety Worker’s Compensation.

Outcome of Regular Session (2013-2014 Biennium) – The current law was amended legislatively and changed the percentages of allocations of the gross premium tax {see G.S. 105-228.5 (d) (3)}. Allocations for the Volunteer Fire Department Fund were reduced from 30% to 25% and allocations for the Firefighters’ Relief Fund were also reduced from 25% to 20%. The amount going to the general fund was reduced from 45% to 35%. This aggregate 10% reduction in the fire programs and another 10% from the General Fund will create a 20% funding stream for the Volunteer Safety Workers’ Compensation Fund. The Volunteer Safety Workers’ Compensation Fund will finally have a dedicated annual funding stream of a minimum of $6.3 million. The Volunteer Fire Department Fund and the Firefighters’ Relief Fund will recover significantly over the next few years based on projections for increased dividends from the gross premium tax.

Issue #2 – Fire and Rescue Retirement Revision of 2013!

The North Carolina Firemen’s and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund is established to provide pension allowances and other benefits for eligible firemen and rescue squad workers in the State who elect to become members of the fund. In order to better reflect the structure of other Retirement Systems statutes, changes and technical corrections are needed. Issues to be addressed with filed legislation:

  • Renaming the Pension Fund and additional gender neutrality changes are made throughout the bill.
  • Creating a Definitions Section and additional definitions are being added to further clarify the administration of the fund.
  • Repeal of Archaic and Outdated Statutes and Code Provisions.
  • Changes to the Board of Trustees.
  • Administrative Changes and Technical Corrections of Wording. This section requires that all refunds be directed to members rather than to fire departments or rescue squads.

Outcome of Regular Session (2013-2014 Biennium) –
The North Carolina Firemen’s and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund (FRSWPF) is established to provide pension allowances and other benefits for eligible firemen and rescue squad workers in the State who elect to become members of the fund. In order to better reflect the structure of other Retirement Systems statutes changes and technical corrections were needed. With that, various pieces of legislation were passed during this session. Those bills were: HB 327, HB 357, and HB 358. Listed below are highlighted changes that will impact the fire service:

H.B. 327 Howard / SB 304 Meredith, Fire and Rescue Pension Revision of 2013

  • Firefighters must be 18 years of age to join the FRSWPF
  • Any and all lump sum withdrawals will be refunded to the members only
  • Governance will now be by the Local Governmental Employee’s Retirement System Board (LGERS)
  • Meetings and drill requirements were changed to 36 hours of training thus removing confusion on the requirements
  • The section of the original bill that would have allowed paid members (only those who are employed by local government) of FRSWPF to receive an in‐service distribution of their pension after attainment of age 55 with 20 years of membership service was removed during the process. This will remain a priority of NCSFA in the next session.
  • Detailed below are future funding forecast of the Fund –
    • The state funding today is almost a dollar for dollar match to the 1960 funding on a per dollar value of assessed property in the state. In 1960, every dollar the state spent on the FRSWPF was working to protect $69,000 worth of assessed property value. Every dollar spent on the fire and rescue pension fund today is working to protect $69,000 worth of value. The long-term average (from 1960 to today) is $65,000 per dollar.
    • ARC (Annual Required Contribution) – State 5-year forecast. In FY13 the ARC was 15.4 million and projected ARC for FY14 is 14.6 million. The ARC is projected to be 10.4 million in FY15, 10.7 million in FY 16, 11.1 million in FY 17, and 11.4 million in FY 18.
    • Funded Status – 5-year forecast. In FY13 the FR {funding ratio (Assests to Liabilities)} is at 88.2% and for FY14 is projected to be 89.8%. The FR is projected to be 90.4% in FY15, 91.1% in FY 16, 91.8% in FY 17, and 92.8% in FY 18.

H.B. 357 Moffitt, Retirement Governance Changes Act of 2013

  • This bill adds a seat to the Local Governmental Employee’s Retirement System Board for a Member of the Fireman’s and Rescue Squad Workers Pension Fund

H.B. 358 Moffitt, Retirement Technical Corrections

  • This bill amended the terms in G.S. 143-166.2 (d) to coincide with the changes in H.B. 327 Fire and Rescue Pension Revision of 2013. This amendment was needed to keep those under the age of 18 eligible for LODD benefits.

Issue #3 – VIPER Funding is crucial to the completion of the communications project as is the issuance of VIPER identification numbers for departments that have invested heavily in equipment and infrastructure to use the VIPER system and are not able to do so.

  • Priority 1- Fund P 25 migration of the VIPER system $23 Million –P 25 is a national standard and increases the number of users the system can have from 65,000 to 128,000. The current infrastructure has reached capacity of 65,000 users.
  • Priority 2- VIPER System Build Out $26 Million – This funding will help to complete the VIPER build out. While the system is currently at about 70% complete, there are several counties in the western part of the state that still do not have coverage.
  • Priority 3- Operational and maintenance funding $6.75 Million – Need to fund additional positions to help maintain the system. The system is still being maintained with the same amount of funding even though more towers have been added.

Outcome of Regular Session (2013-2014 Biennium) – VIPER will receive 25.0 million of nonrecurring money in FY 2013-2014 to upgrade the system to P-25 technology. VIPER will receive 7.0 million in FY 2014-2015 (next fiscal year) and again in FY 2015-2016 for tower construction. This amount will drop to 2.0 million of recurring money in FY 2016-2017 to fund operation and maintenance of the completed VIPER system. VIPER is also allocated 2.8 million as recurring monies for additional operation and maintenance cost of VIPER and there is an additional 580,000 of nonrecurring monies in FY 2014-2015 also for operation and maintenance.

Pending Studies affecting Fire-Rescue Programs

The Program Evaluation Division (PED) is a central, non-partisan unit of the Legislative Services Commission of the North Carolina General Assembly that assists the General Assembly in fulfilling its responsibility to oversee government functions. The mission of the Program Evaluation Division is to evaluate whether public services are delivered in an effective and efficient manner and in accordance with the law.

PED primarily supports legislative oversight by conducting independent evaluations of state government as directed by the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee (JLPEOC). As legislators perform their oversight function, they often have questions about how policies are being implemented, how money is being spent, and what results are being achieved. PED addresses those questions from an unbiased perspective through program evaluations.

There are two pending studies requested by JLPEOC. JLPEOC has requested PED to look at all state funded fire-rescue programs to answer the following questions:

  1. Eligibility criteria and benefits of each fund?
  2. Financial status of each fund?
  3. How the funds are administrated and what are the oversights?
  4. How do the funds compare to other states?
  5. How do the grant oversights compare to grants management best practices?

The first report is due to JLPEOC during October of 2013. This project will examine state-administered funds that benefit fire, rescue, and emergency management services workers through the Firemen’s and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund, Firefighters’ Relief Fund, Rescue Squad Workers’ Relief Fund, and Workers’ Compensation Fund for Volunteer Safety Workers.

The second report is due to JLPEOC during December of 2013. This project will examine state-administered funds that benefit volunteer fire, rescue, and EMS departments through the Volunteer Fire Department Fund and the Volunteer Rescue/EMS Fund.

While these studies do not in themselves change benefits or operating practices, the General Assembly and other involved agencies will use these results to determine necessary administrative changes and potential legislative amendments. It will be critical for the fire and emergency services to follow the reports to insure that resulting changes yield positive actions that improve benefits for our members.