EMAT members are encouraged to come to Nashville Tuesday, March 21st for an emergency management Day on the Hill. A number of bills affecting emergency management are moving in legislative committees, including 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. The bill, HB0604/SB0763 (Halford/Stevens), was scheduled for consideration this week in the House State Government Subcommittee, but the meeting was canceled due to the Presidential visit to Nashville. It is rescheduled for the subcommittee meeting Wednesday. EMAT members are encouraged to contact members of the subcommittee and express their support. Members include Chairman Rep. Bill Sanderson (Obion County), Rep. Bud Hulsey (Sullivan County), Rep. Darren Jernigan (Davidson County), Rep. Mary Littleton (Dickson County) and Rep. Bob Ramsey (Blount County). The bill is not yet scheduled for discussion in the Senate.
Another bill in that same subcommittee would increase the death benefit for all first responders to $50,000, HB0417/SB0375 (Carr, Overbey). A third bill that would extend health insurance benefits for the family of a first responder, HB0466/SB0822 (Lynn, Haile), is also on the agenda.
Post Disaster Assistance
Legislation that would allow a city or county to spend public funds to clean up private residential property passed 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 scheduled for consideration in the House Local Government Subcommittee on Tuesday.
Another bill to provide relief to property owners affected by the Gatlinburg fire has passed both chambers and is on the way to the Governor for his signature. 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 50 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 was scheduled for discussion Tuesday in the Senate State & Local Committee, but the committee did not get to the bill. It is on the agenda for next week. 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 and the House Health Subcommittee on Wednesday of next week. 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.