|Posted:||December 30, 2022 11:32 AM|
|From:||Senator Cris Dush|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Fire Department Reimbursements|
|I plan to reintroduce SB1044 from last session. This bill was previously sponsored by Senator Mastriano. This legislation will authorize volunteer fire companies to recoup their costs associated with an emergency response that do not include the costs of providing manpower. At the present time, there is no state law that authorizes or prohibits volunteer fire companies from billing for their services.
This legislation would establish that a person who is involved in an emergency, that necessitates a response from a volunteer emergency services organization, shall be liable for the actual and reasonable response costs, when services are rendered.
As you know, our volunteer fire and EMS organizations continue to struggle financially to provide our local municipalities with fire and emergency services protection. The reasons for this are two-fold; 1) increased operation costs like trucks, turnout gear, etc. and 2) decreased municipal funding support.
In the absence of a state law, the county courts have rendered two mid-1990 court decisions. The Lima Fire Co. No. 1 v. Rowe et. al. decision ruled that a fire company could bill to cover their actual and reasonable costs, while the Cherryhill township Volunteer Co. v. David Marcus Jr. decision ruled that they could not. The confusion is well shown in the letters brought forward in a hearing held last September by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which showed insurance companies denying a fire company’s submitted claim, citing the lack of an ordinance or statute requiring payment of a claim. The diversion of opinion here further illustrates the need for a uniform standard of reimbursement. My bill will do just that.
In addition, our legislation is a forward-thinking proposal that will codify the enabling ordinance described in the Cherryhill decision; thereby, providing our more than 2,400 volunteer services organizations a way to recoup expenses by billing for real and reasonable reimbursement costs, not for manpower or labor costs. The cost recoupment may include items such as chemical agents used, the refill of air tanks, flares used at emergency scenes, fuel to operate apparatus, etc. In short, my proposal is a cost recovery measure, not a revenue enhancement process.
Furthermore, under our proposal, a fire company is prohibited from billing an individual who has paid a tax to the municipality wherein the fire company is located to fund the fire company. It will also prohibit insurance companies from requiring a contract with the company for the purposes of billing. The legislation will put an appeal process in place, and the losing party will be responsible for all costs of the appeal.
Please consider sponsoring this legislation to assist our volunteer fire companies that provide our communities with a very necessary service that we depend on to provide protection of life and property.
Introduced as SB354