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Monday February 20, 2017

Call to Action

 

 

“All Politics Are Local”

This is the phrase that Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, one of the most famous Speakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, used to emphasize the fundamental importance of grassroots opinion. The politicians with the most public support at the local level get themselves into office and stay there, and no elected official ever forgets this fact. When you step forward as a spokesperson of North Carolina’s fire and emergency services, state and local politicians from our state will listen and appreciate the expertise that you provide.

 

Please read “Guide to Communication with Elected Officials” published by the NVFC.  While the theme of this document is communication with the U.S. Congress, the strategies definitely apply to the North Carolina General Assembly.  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.

 

guidetolocal

 

Again, remember…”All Politics Are Local”

 

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2014 Legislative Mission Accomplished!

Our 2014 Legislative Session has been a success in achieving all of our top three priority items on the agenda.  Below, please find the Issue and Outcome statement for our agenda.

The NCSFA/NCAFC Legislative Committee would like to thank each of you for your work locally in supporting the fire service legislative efforts and keeping your folks locally informed.  We also had a very successful and impressive Legislative Day on May 28 – the biggest ever to date.  This showing had a huge impact and left a lasting impression on Members of the General Assembly.

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
Julia.Howard@ncleg.net
Rep. George Cleveland
George.Cleveland@ncleg.net
Rep. Tim Moffitt
Tim.Moffitt@ncleg.net
Rep. Edgar Starnes
Edgar.Starnes@ncleg.net
Rep. Jason Saine
Jason.Saine@ncleg.net
Rep. Tim Moore
Tim.Moore@ncleg.net
Sen. Tommy Tucker
Tommy.Tucker@ncleg.net
Sen. Wesley Meredith
Wesley.Meredith@ncleg.net
Sen. Warren Daniel
Warren.Daniel@ncleg.net
Sen. Tom Apodaca
Tom.Apodaca@ncleg.net

Legislative Agenda & Outcome

Issue #1 – Any legislation derived from the four Program Evaluation Division (PED) Reports reviewing state-administered funds related to fire and rescue organizations!

This project will review state-administered funds related to fire and rescue departments, including the eligibility criteria, benefits received, and oversight of these funds. The first report, which was released November 2013, examined benefits to individuals through the Firefighters’ Relief Fund and Rescue Squad Workers’ Relief Fund. The second report scrutinized the Workers’ Compensation Fund for Volunteer Safety Workers was released in February of 2014. The third report, released in March of 2014, will examine the Firemen’s and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension. Finally, the fourth report will studied grants to departments through the Volunteer Fire Department Fund and Volunteer Rescue/EMS Fund and was released in April of 2014.

Outcome of Regular Session (2013-2014 Biennium) – House Bill 1034 (Session Law 2014-64) implements the recommendations of a four-part series of reports published by the Program Evaluation Division by making changes to safety workers’ relief funds, compensation, and supplemental pension funds, as well as by making changes to grant funds for fire and rescue departments.

  • Relief Funds – Section 1 of the bill amends existing statutes related to the local firefighters’ relief funds, the statewide Firefighters’ Relief Fund, and the Rescue Squad Workers’ Relief Fund. In addition to several technical and conforming changes, Section 1 amends Article 84 and 85 of Chapter 58 of the General Statutes establishing the following: a recommended minimum and required maximum relief fund balance; increased reporting requirements; and the addition and clarification of several allowable uses. The NCSFA and NCAFC’s recommendations request allowing supplemental retirement fund balances will not affect the established relief fund balance of each local fund.
  • Workers’ Compensation Fund – Section 2 of the bill makes changes to the volunteer firefighter and rescue worker workers’ compensation statutes, increasing reporting requirements and third party administrator requirements.
  • Pension Fund – Section 3 of the bill removes the in-service prohibition so that all participants (career and volunteer) aged 55 and over who have paid $10 per month for the required 20 years (the maximum contribution time) are eligible, regardless of whether they have actually retired from firefighting or rescue squad work.
  • Fire and Rescue Grants – Section 4 of the bill allows fire departments with less than $50,000 of income to match Volunteer Fire Department Fund grants on a lower 25/75 match rate, rather than the current 50/50 match rate. Section 4 would also require (i) additional reporting from the Department of Insurance, (ii) that a department reimburse a fund if the department disposes of equipment purchased with grants, and (iii) that a dissolved department transfer all equipment purchased with grant funds to a successor department.

Issue #2 – Fire and Rescue Retirement Revision of 2014!

The North Carolina Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund (FRSWRF) is established to provide pension allowances and other benefits for eligible firefighters 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.  This is needed to clarify in-service distribution procedures for firefighters & rescue squad workers in the FRSWRF.

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 firefighters and rescue squad workers in the State who elect to become members of the fund. As mentioned earlier, House Bill 1034 (Session Law 2014-64) implements the recommendations of a four-part series of reports published by the Program Evaluation Division by making changes to safety workers’ relief funds, compensation, and supplemental pension funds, as well as by making changes to grant funds for fire and rescue departments.

Section 3 of the bill extends supplemental pension payments to all participants aged 55 and over who have paid $10 per month for the required 20 years (the maximum contribution time), regardless of whether they have actually retired from firefighting or rescue squad work. Essentially, the in-service prohibition against those who are “paid compensated” was removed from NCGS 58-86-55.

Issue #3 – Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Funding!

Historically, the primary source of funding for the USAR program in North Carolina has been through Homeland Security Grants passed through North Carolina Emergency Management. Over the past several years, there has been a steady decline in grant funding for the entire program in North Carolina. In January 2013, the sponsoring chiefs along with representatives for North Carolina Emergency Management met again for the purpose of developing recommendations to address the issues noted above.

Outcome of Regular Session (2013-2014 Biennium) – HB 698 (Session Law 2014-27)  “A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE CRIMINAL HISTORY CHECKS FOR CURRENT VOLUNTEERS OR PAID FIRE DEPARTMENT PERSONNEL AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES PERSONNEL” was a crucial bill for the fire service in North Carolina from several perspectives.  First, the original bill allowed fire departments and emergency medical service agencies to conduct criminal background checks on current members.  This language was tweaked to include volunteer department chiefs (effective January 01, 2015).

As stated in the “Issue” paragraph, grant funding for USAR programs in North Carolina has been steadily declining in recent years.  HB 698 was also instrumental as a first step to securing funding for these programs.  Although no funding was directly secured through this bill, Sections 3, 4, and 5 establish a foundation for securing USAR funding in future sessions.  These sections were added to HB 698 under the guidance of Representative Stephen Ross (Alamance).  Because HB 698 was eligible to move forward this year, Representative Jason Saine (Lincoln), who originally introduced the bill, allowed it to be added.  Senator Warren Daniel (Cleveland) was instrumental in working it through the Senate.

One key to our success over the last two years has been the local contacts each of you have established and maintained.  Don’t forget to foster these relationships throughout the year and continue to improve the rapport you and the local fire service has with each of your Legislators.  Your local involvement is critical to our collective grassroots initiative.

Remember the phrase that Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, one of the most famous Speakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, used to emphasize the fundamental importance of grassroots opinion… “All Politics Are Local.”  The politicians with the most public support at the local level get themselves into office and stay there, and no elected official ever forgets this fact.  When you step forward as a spokesperson of North Carolina’s fire and emergency services, state and local politicians from our state will listen and appreciate the expertise that you provide.

Note: This link will display the Legislative Report presented during the General Session of the 2014 Conference 2014 NCSFA Conference Legislative Update.