The EMAT Day on the Hill was a success with numerous members walking the plaza and meeting with legislators. Many legislators expressed their support for 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 recommended unanimously by the House State Government Subcommittee and sent to the full committee for consideration 3/28. The bill is not yet scheduled for discussion in the Senate.
Another bill in that same subcommittee that would increase the death benefit for all first responders to $50,000 HB0417/SB0375 (Carr, Overbey) was taken off notice. A third bill that would extend health insurance benefits for the family of a first responder HB0466/SB0822 (Lynn, Haile), was deferred for a week in the House Subcommittee and in the Senate State and Local Committee.
Post Disaster Assistance
Legislation that would allow a city or county to spend public funds to clean up private residential property 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. SB0964/HB1166 (Overbey, Crawford) has already passed the Senate.
A separate insurance related bill is scheduled for discussion 3/28 in the Senate Commerce Committee. SB0373/HB0467 (Overbey, Swann) provides that an insured party that has losses from catastrophic wildfires must be paid for the full amount of coverage purchased without the necessity of purchasing replacement items prior to being compensated.
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 back on schedule for discussion next week in committees in both the House and Senate. SB1158/HB0032 (Hensley, Byrd) is scheduled for 3/28 in the Senate State and Local Committee and 3/29 in the House State Government Subcommittee.
Public Safety Behavioral Health
A bill to require public safety employers to offer up to ten free counseling visits for treating PTSD in its employees was deferred in both the Senate Health Committee and the House Health Subcommittee this week. SB211/HB709 (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. The bill is reset for 3/29 in both committees.
SB0270/HB0268 (Beavers, Sherrell) exempts active and/or volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members from having to pay a regular registration renewal fee for license plates. The bill is set for Senate Transportation on 3/27 and the House Transportation Committee 3/28 after being recommended by the subcommittee on 3/15.