Legislation to make emergency management personnel eligible for the same death benefit as other first responders passed out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and has been sent to the calendar committee to be schedule to be heard on the floor of the Senate. The bill, HB604/SB763 (Halford/Stevens), should be heard there sometime next week. Thank you for reaching out to committee members and urging their support of the legislation. I encourage you to follow up and thank them for their support of the bill. Because of the small price tag on the bill ($25,000), it does not have to go through the Finance Committee in the Senate.
In the House, the House Finance Subcommittee referred the bill to a “First Responder” calendar where the subcommittee will review a number of proposals to enhance benefits for first reponders at the same time. When we get more information about this meeting, we will let you know. This particular meeting is new for the subcommittee, but it is not that unusual for it to set up a special time to hear certain bills if several legislative proposals on a related subject are all progressing at the same time.
Separate legislation that proposes to increase death benefits to a total of $250,000 payable over five years, SB1059/HB1368 (Bowling, Sargent), has been sent to the Finance Committees in both chambers.
Likewise, a bill that would extend health insurance benefits for the family of a first responder who dies in the line of duty, HB466/SB822 (Lynn, Haile), has also been sent to Finance Committees in both chambers. These three proposals will likely be discussed together on the “First Responder” calendar of the House Finance Subcommittee. Members of that committee are listed below. EMAT members are encouraged to contact subcommittee members. Of the three bills, adding emergency management personnel to those individuals eligible for the death benefit is the most inexpensive of the proposals.
A fourth bill related to death benefits for police officers killed in the line of duty will also be in that committee in the House, but the legislation has not moved in the Senate.
Members of House Finance Subcommittee include:
Post Disaster Assistance
Legislation that would allow a city or county to spend public funds to clean up private residential property was recommended by the Finance Subcommittee and sent to the full Finance Committee. It was amended in the House Local Government Subcommittee to clarify that the county commission must authorize a highway department to do work on private property and provide for funding outside of dedicated transportation funding. SB964/HB1166 (Overbey, Crawford) has already passed the Senate.
Natural Disaster Relief Program
A bill to create a TEMA administered natural disaster relief program for incidents that do not reach the level for a federal declaration was recommended by the Senate State and Local Government Committee and sent to Finance. SB1158/HB32 (Hensley, Byrd) was amended in the House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 5th, to add language that makes grants under the legislation contingent upon availability of funding in the general appropriations act. With that language, the bill was referred to the full State Committee.
Public Safety Behavioral Health
A bill, SB211/HB709 (Green/Whitson), to require public safety employers to offer up to ten free counseling visits for treating PTSD in its employees has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The House Health Subcommittee recommended the bill and sent it to the full Health Committee with an amendment that defined “public safety employees” as emergency medical services employees or professional fire fighters who are paid full time employees of a public safety employer.
While adjournment this year is not expected until sometime in May, many committees and subcommittees of the legislature have concluded their business for the year or are working off their “final calendar.” In announcements on the Senate floor at the end of session Thursday of this week, Senator Bo Watson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, laid out a projected schedule for getting the state budget adopted. He projected May the 4th as the likely date for adoption, with the Senate then using the following week to finish work on any bills left behind the budget. This projection however was contingent upon everything moving smoothly. With so much of the Governor’s budget dependent upon a transportation funding and tax cut proposal working its way slowly through both chambers, the outcome of that legislation could delay the budget process. That bill, with a new amendment that closely resembles the one moving in the Senate, was recommended by the House Finance Subcommittee and sent to the full House Finance Committee. However, members of House leadership have been giving indications that an alternative proposal may be presented next week in the full committee. The Senate Finance Committee has been holding the bill waiting on the House to reach the same point in the process.
End of Session