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PRINTER'S NO. 2364
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
1773
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY STRUZZI, FARRY, BARRAR, BOBACK, CALTAGIRONE,
CIRESI, ECKER, FREEMAN, HEFFLEY, HOHENSTEIN, HOWARD, JAMES,
KAUFFMAN, KULIK, MALAGARI, MURT, OWLETT, PYLE, READSHAW,
SAINATO, SCHLOSSBERG, SCHMITT, STAATS, ULLMAN, ZABEL,
ZIMMERMAN AND SCHWEYER, AUGUST 30, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS AND EMERGENCY
PREPAREDNESS, AUGUST 30, 2019
AN ACT
Amending Title 35 (Health and Safety) of the Pennsylvania
Consolidated Statutes, in emergency management services,
providing for tuition assistance for active volunteers; and
establishing the Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program
and Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Fund.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Title 35 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated
Statutes is amended by adding a chapter to read:
CHAPTER 79B
TUITION ASSISTANCE FOR ACTIVE VOLUNTEERS
Subchapter
A. Preliminary Provisions
B. Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program
SUBCHAPTER A
PRELIMINARY PROVISIONS
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79B01. Definitions.
§ 79B01. Definitions.
The following words and phrases when used in this chapter
shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the
context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Active volunteer." A volunteer for a volunteer organization
who satisfies the eligibility criteria under section 79B12(a)
(relating to eligibility), receives a certificate of eligibility
and complies with the requirements of the program.
"Agency." The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance
Agency.
"Annual tuition rate." The in-State tuition rate, including
a technology tuition fee, established or approved by May 1 of
each year by the Board of Governors of the State System of
Higher Education.
"Approved institution of higher learning." An educational
institution offering a postsecondary program of education
located in this Commonwealth and approved by the agency.
"Approved program of education." A degree-granting or
certificate-granting curriculum, course of study or training
program required for entrance into a specific career to be
pursued on a full-time or part-time basis or its equivalent as
determined by the agency, at an approved institution of higher
learning.
"Certificate of eligibility." A certificate issued by the
agency under section 79B12(b) that certifies that an active
volunteer satisfies the eligibility criteria under section
79B12(a).
"Eligible student." An active volunteer who is enrolled in
an approved institution of higher learning.
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"Emergency medical services agency." As defined in section
8103 (relating to definitions).
"Full-time student." An eligible student pursuing no less
than 12 credit hours per semester of an approved program of
education or its equivalent that is recognized by the agency as
a full-time course of study.
"Fund." The Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Fund
established under under section 79B21(a) (relating to Active
Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program Fund ).
"Part-time student." An eligible student pursuing less than
12 credit hours per semester of an approved program of education
or its equivalent that is recognized by the agency as a
part-time course of study.
"Program." The Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program
established under section 79B11 (relating to establishment) .
"Technology tuition fee." A separate tuition fee established
by the Board of Governors of the State System of Higher
Education for rendering technology resources and services to
enhance student learning experiences.
"Tuition assistance." Reimbursement provided by the agency
for tuition under the program.
"Volunteer fire company." A nonprofit chartered corporation,
association or organization located in this Commonwealth that
provides fire protection services and may offer other voluntary
emergency services within this Commonwealth.
"Volunteer organization." A volunteer fire company or
emergency medical services agency.
SUBCHAPTER B
ACTIVE VOLUNTEER TUITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Sec.
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79B11. Establishment.
79B12. Eligibility.
79B13. Tuition assistance .
79B14. Promissory note.
79B15. Amount of tuition payments.
79B16. Limitation on tuition assistance.
79B17. Recoupment of tuition assistance payments.
79B18. Service records.
79B19. Verification of active volunteer status.
79B20. Administrative costs.
79B21. Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program Fund.
79B22. Regulations.
§ 79B11. Establishment.
The Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program is
established within the agency to provide tuition assistance to
active volunteers with volunteer organizations who are students
at approved institutions of higher learning.
§ 79B12. Eligibility.
(a) Criteria.--Upon submitting an application to participate
in the program in accordance with the agency's regulations,
rules or guidelines under section 79B22 (relating to
regulations) , an individual shall be eligible to receive tuition
assistance if the individual satisfies all of the following
eligibility criteria:
(1) Is a resident of this Commonwealth.
(2) Is an active volunteer.
(3) Has participated in not less than 30% of a volunteer
organization's activities within the one-year period before
the individual submitted an application to the agency for
tuition assistance. The activities may include, but not be
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limited to, training, drills, emergency response calls,
administrative and operational support, fundraising or other
events and projects that aid the financial viability of the
volunteer organization.
(4) Has enrolled as a student in an approved program of
education at an approved institution of higher learning.
(5) Accepts an obligation to serve as an active
volunteer with a volunteer organization for at least one year
prior to enrolling in an approved program of education and at
least five years after completing an approved program of
education.
(6) Has signed a promissory note obligating the
individual to repay the full amount of tuition assistance
received by the individual if the individual fails to satisfy
the requirements under the program.
(7) Is in good standing with the volunteer organization
for which the individual is an active volunteer.
(b) Certificate.--The agency shall issue a certificate of
eligibility to an individual who satisfies the eligibility
criteria under subsection (a).
§ 79B13. Tuition assistance .
From funds appropriated for the program, tuition assistance
shall be provided to eligible students to pursue approved
programs of education on or after the effective date of this
section.
§ 79B14. Promissory note.
Before participating in the program, an individual must sign
a promissory note obligating the individual to repay the full
amount of the tuition assistance received by the individual if
the individual fails to satisfy the requirements under the
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program as specified under section 79B17 (relating to recoupment
of tuition assistance payments).
§ 79B15. Amount of tuition payments.
(a) Full-time students.--Payments of tuition assistance to a
full-time student shall be determined by the agency and may not
exceed the lesser of the following for an academic year:
(1) The tuition rate charged by the approved institution
of higher learning for the number of credit hours per
semester or its equivalent for the approved program of
education in which the full-time student is enrolled.
(2) The annual tuition rate charged by an institution
within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for
the academic year.
(b) Part-time student s.--Payments of tuition assistance to a
part-time student shall be determined by the agency and may not
exceed the lesser of the following for an academic year:
(1) The tuition rate charged by the approved institution
of higher learning for the number of credit hours per
semester or its equivalent in which the part-time student is
enrolled .
(2) The annual tuition rate charged by an institution
within the State System of Higher Education for the number of
credit hours per semester or its equivalent in which the
part-time student is enrolled for the same academic year or
period.
(c) Limit on charges.--An eligible student who attends an
institution within the State System of Higher Education may not
be charged tuition exceeding the annual tuition rate.
§ 79B16. Limitation on tuition assistance.
An eligible student shall not receive tuition assistance for
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a total of more than five academic years or an equivalent amount
of time as determined by the agency.
§ 79B17. Recoupment of tuition assistance payments.
(a) Noncompliance.--An individual who fails to satisfy the
requirements under the program shall be liable to the
Commonwealth for the full amount of tuition assistance received
by the individual , unless the failure is a result of an injur y
while responding to an emergency as an active volunteer that
prevents the individual from complying with the requirements
under the program. The promissory note under section 79B14
(relating to promissory note) shall be repaid by the individual
upon demand by the agency on a schedule as the agency may
determine.
(b) Notice.--A volunteer organization shall notify the
agency if an active volunteer fails to satisfy the volunteer
requirements under the program.
§ 79B18. Service records.
(a) Logs.--For the purpose of ensuring compliance with the
requirements under the program, the chief of a volunteer fire
company or the supervisor or chief of an emergency medical
services agency or their designees shall establish and maintain
a service log that documents t he services provided by an active
volunteer participating in the program, including a calculation
of the amount of time the active volunteer conducts activities
with the volunteer organization.
(b) Review.--Service logs under subsection (a) shall be
subject to periodic review by the agency and the Department of
Auditor General for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the
requirements under this subchapter.
§ 79B19. Verification of active volunteer status.
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(a) Self-certification.--An individual shall sign and submit
an application to the chief of a volunteer fire company or the
supervisor or chief of the emergency medical services agency to
attest that the individual is an active volunteer.
(b) Injured volunteer.--Notwithstanding the volunteer
requirements under the program, an individual who was injured
while responding to an emergency as an active volunteer who can
no longer serve as an active volunteer because of the injury and
who would otherwise be eligible for the program shall be
eligible to participate in the program for five years from the
date of the injury.
(c) Local sign-off.--The chief and another officer of the
volunteer fire company and the supervisor or chief and another
officer of the emergency medical services agency shall sign the
application attesting that the individual is an active volunteer
under subsection (a) or that the individual can no longer serve
as an active volunteer due to injury under subsection (b). The
application shall then be forwarded to the agency for final
review and processing.
§ 79B20. Administrative costs.
The administrative costs of the program for the fiscal year
beginning July 1, 2020, and each fiscal year thereafter shall
not exceed 3.5% of the total amount of money appropriated to the
agency to implement the program.
§ 79B21. Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance Program Fund.
(a) Establishment.--The Active Volunteer Tuition Assistance
Program Fund is established as a nonlapsing restricted receipts
account in the State Treasury.
(b) Appropriation.--Money deposited or tran sferred into the
fund, including any accrued interest, is appropriated to the
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agency on a continuing basis to implement the program.
(c) Administrative actions.--No administrative action shall
prevent the deposit or transfer of money into the fund.
(d) Use.--Money in the fund may only be used to implement
the program. Money in the fund may not be diverted for
any other purpose by administrative action.
§ 79B22. Regulations.
The agency shall promulgate regulations and establish rules
or guidelines to administer this subchapter.
Section 2. This act shall take effect as follows:
(1) The addition of 35 Pa.C.S. § 79B21 shall take effect
July 1, 2020, or immediately, whichever is later.
(2) The addition of 35 Pa.C.S. §§ 79B13 and 79B15 shall
take effect August 1, 2020, or immediately, whichever is
later.
(3) The remainder of this act shall take effect
immediately.
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