|Posted:||January 25, 2021 04:10 PM|
|From:||Senator Lisa Baker and Sen. Timothy P. Kearney|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Allowing Counties Option to Create Public Safety Authorities|
|In the near future, we plan to reintroduce SB 1274 which would further improve upon the work of the General Assembly relevant to Recommendation 6 of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission’s Final Report issued in 2018, by allowing for the creation of county-wide Public Safety Authorities for firefighting and/or EMS.
Last Session, we developed this legislation through many rounds of stakeholder engagement facilitated in coordination with the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chairs. Local government associations, firefighting and EMS organizations, and state agencies have provided input to improve the legislation. Over the course of 2020, we received feedback from these important organizations prior to the introduction of legislation and incorporated many changes to fulfill a key recommendation from the SR 6 report.
Specifically, the SR 6 report recommended that the Legislature simplify the process to regionalize fire and EMS services by allowing for the formation of regional or county-wide service districts, or what are better known as authorities here in our Commonwealth. The report called for making statutory changes today to help prevent service lapses in the future. Many fire and EMS companies and communities know that regionalization provides an opportunity to provide better services in perpetuity, but struggle to find successful ways to get around the legal obstacles that our current statutory framework inadvertently creates.
The Municipal Authorities Act, Chapter 56 of Title 53, provides an excellent framework for the creation, governance, and professional management of authorities to provide municipal services. It allows municipalities and counties to create authorities for a host of purposes – from sewers to swimming pools – but not for fire or EMS.
Our legislation would amend the Municipal Authorities Act to give counties the option to create Public Safety Authorities, which may be used to provide services for fire-fighting and/or EMS. Individual municipalities would be able to join or not join if they so choose, and rather than replacing our incredible volunteer and career fire and EMS companies, authorities would exist to support them and their work.
In Pennsylvania, one size solutions do not fit all. An authority may not be necessary for every county or community, but our legislation would give companies, municipalities, and regions the choice to use this tool. By giving counties and the municipalities the framework and option to organize regionally, this legislation would allow for innovative service models—from centralized administrative support to higher levels of coordination—that can best fit the needs of our diverse communities.
Last Session, cosponsors included Senators Blake, Browne, Fontana, Hughes, Muth, Pittman, Regan, Schwank, Tartaglione and Yudichak.
Please join us in cosponsoring legislation that would address this urgent need and improve upon the work that has already been done by our colleagues to ensure the safety of our communities throughout the Commonwealth.
Introduced as SB698