March 10 2017

Legislation requested by EMAT to allow local emergency management personnel to be considered first responders and be eligible for a death benefit of $25,000 is scheduled for consideration next week in the House State Government Subcommittee. The bill, 
HB0604/SB0763 (Halford/Stevens), is similar to legislation which passed the Senate last year but was bogged down in the House Finance Committee. EMAT members are encouraged to contact members of the subcommittee and express their support. Members include:

                                            Chairman Rep. Bill Sanderson (Obion County), 615/741-0718
                                            Rep. Bud Hulsey (Sullivan County), 615/741-2886
                                            Rep. Darren Jernigan (Davidson County), 615/741-6959
                                            Rep. Mary Littleton (Dickson County), 615/741-1980
                                            Rep. Bob Ramsey (Blount County), 615/741-3560
The subcommittee meets Wednesday at 1:30 pm. The bill is not yet scheduled for discussion in the Senate.

That committee is also scheduled to hear bills that would increase the death benefit for all first responders to $50,000 HB0417/SB0375 (Carr, Overbey), and to extend health insurance benefits for the family of a first responder HB0466/SB0822 (Lynn, Haile).


Elsewhere, there are other bills scheduled next week that deal only with death benefits for law enforcement officers. These are HB0277/SB1039 (Hardaway/Harris) in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and SB0687/HB0741 (Yager, Powers) in the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Post Disaster Assistance

          Legislation that would allow a city or county to spend public funds to clean up private residential property is on the Senate floor Monday night. SB0964/HB1166 (Overbey, Crawford) would allow the use of public funds for this clean up if the property owner requests such assistance. Current law only allows this on property which qualifies for property tax relief. The bill is not yet scheduled for consideration in the House.

Another bill to provide relief to property owners affected by a disaster is on the agenda for the same floor session in the Senate as well as in the House the same evening. SB0114/HB0052 (Overbey, Carr) would allow local governing bodies to prorate the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner’s or business owner’s property if such property was fifty percent or more damaged by a FEMA disaster during the period of 9/1/2016 and 12/31/2016.


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 is scheduled for discussion in the Senate State and Local Committee Tuesday at 10:30. SB1158/HB0032 (Hensley, Byrd) was taken off notice in the House in the State Government Subcommittee after a substantial fiscal note was issued on the bill. According to the fiscal note, the estimated cost to administer the $250,000 grant program would be roughly equal to the cost of the grant itself.


Public Safety Behavioral Health

          A bill to require public safety employers to offer up to 10 free counseling visits for treating PTSD in its employees is up for consideration in the Senate Health Committee. SB0211/HB0709 (Green/Whitson) would require the employer to establish support programs, promote the use of counselors, and maintain and make available a list of licensed counselors. The bill also requires counselors providing assistance to public safety employees to participate in training that familiarizes them with the unique problems facing each public safety profession. Finally, it prevents the employer from any retaliatory treatment of employees seeking counseling or behavioral health services.

Don't Forget EMAT 'Day on the Hill' March 21
          The EMAT board has set Tuesday, March 21, 2017, as the organization’s Day on Capitol Hill. The annual event connects Tennessee’s emergency management professionals with members of the Tennessee Senate, House and Administration so they can advocate for major issues of importance to EMAT. Because Tuesdays are traditionally committee meeting days for legislators, this will give EMAT members a number of opportunities to attend committees important to the association. You should also schedule your own meetings with your state Senator and Representative.
          This year the EMAT board is urging its members to focus on proposals as described above that would create a death benefit for first responders from local emergency management agencies killed in the line of duty, a similar benefit to that already offered to law enforcement, ambulance and firefighter personnel.
          Legislative committees begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 21, so please plan your travel plans accordingly.