Yesterday, the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee unanimously reported House Bill 911, which would reauthorize the Emergency 9-1-1 System in Pennsylvania, according to Senator Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), Chairman of the Committee.
“One of the core functions of government is public safety,” said Sen. Vulakovich. “This measure will help ensure that Pennsylvania’s county 911 centers are not only properly funded but able to handle emergency contacts from any type of device – calling from a home phone, text messaging or emailing a picture.”
The changes made to the bill by the Committee include:
*Establishing an advisory board consisting of public and nonpublic stakeholders.
*Ensuring a higher percentage of funding is distributed to counties.
*Requiring PEMA to conduct a thorough audit and inventory of all county 911 centers and equipment.
*Requiring PEMA and the advisory board to study future methods of funding the 911 system.
*Establishing a county buy-in provision.
These changes are the result of the two hearings the Committee held on the bill and input provided by a number of individuals and organizations. The current fee on wireless devices is set to expire on June 30, 2015, unless the law is reauthorized. House Bill 911 would set the fee at $1.65 a month per device.
The Committee also voted to support Senate Bill 299, legislation introduced by Senator Lisa Baker that would allow municipalities to provide Tax Credits to volunteer firefighters and nonprofit EMS providers, and Senate Bill 370, legislation introduced by Senator Don White that allows volunteer fire companies that merge and receive funds through the Fire and EMS Grant Program for up to ten years.
“During our April hearing in Westmoreland County, we heard that our volunteer firefighter ranks has decreased from 300,000 in 1976 to 50,000 today,” said Sen. Vulakovich. “As such, we need to provide more incentives to recruit and retain our volunteer responders. It is my hope that these bills will kick-start this effort this legislative session. Ultimately, there is no one silver bullet, but by taking a number of steps we can help stem the tide.”
Click here for video of the meeting.
Contact: Nate Silcox (717) 787-6538