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IOWA FIRE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION

2022 LEGISLATIVE OBJECTIVES

 

 

TALKING POINTS

IOWA BENEFITS PACKAGE FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS

 

Background

Studies show the volunteer firefighters save tax payers $40 billion in t

he USA. 70% of the USA by area is served by volunteer departments.

 

Iowa has approximately 850 fire departments statewide.  Of those; 92% are volunteer departments, much higher than the national average of 70%, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety; of Iowa's 16,100 firefighters, 14,500 are volunteers. It is estimated that we lose approx. 1,000 volunteer firefighters a year across the state.  This is due to illness, death, retirement, resigning and relocating.

Historically, Iowa's firefighting force is largely volunteer, some of these volunteers move to larger cities to a paid department leaving a workforce shortage in smaller rural departments.

Iowa has a total of 947 cities, 460 of those have populations under 1000. Smaller rural cities are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. Cities realize that these volunteers do the same job as paid firefighters yet they receive no pay and receive no benefits like their counterparts.

This legislation is an attempt to try to help recruit and retain Iowa’s volunteer firefighters by providing these public safety officers a benefits package in return for the work they do to keep our cities and citizens safe .

 

Length of Service Award  (LOSAP)

This bill is with Rep Bloomingdale in Local Gov HF 750. This bill will most likely get a new bill # this session. The bill has passed the full Local Government committee and is now with the Appropriations Committee to approve the funding. Once approved in the House it will go to the Senate Local Government Committee

House Appropriations Committee:

Senate Local Government Committee:

 

 

 

Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAPs) are pension-like programs increasingly used across

 the United States to assist communities in recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteer firefighters 

and EMS personnel. Nationally, approximately 86% of all fire departments are volunteer fire departments,

communities are increasingly seeking tools to assist them in boosting the ranks of volunteers.

 In Iowa 92% are volunteer departments.

The LOSAP is a simple tool that can be implemented cost-effectively and with minimal taxpayer expense.

Conversely, if enrollment numbers drop low enough, many municipalities can be forced to convert to

paid departments potentially costing states and counties millions in extra spending. Enrollment in

volunteer fire departments has dipped 10% in each of the past two decades, making LOSAPs and

other recruitment tools extremely important to the communities that count on the nations more than

30,000 fire departments.

 

The maximum benefit that can be accrued for any one year of service was $3,000 up until 2018

when the limit was increased to $6,000. 

The Iowa Lottery has agreed to fund this initiative to match the city’s contribution with a 

dollar-for-dollar match. The Iowa Department of Management will be the state fiduciary.

Administrative Rules will be established but basically the process will work somewhat like this:

*A fire department and community, county or township agree to establish a LOSAP program for their volunteer emergency responders  This is voluntary.

*Criteria will be established to determine eligibility on an annual basis.

*Those firefighters who meet the criteria will be awarded a deposit from the city, county or township into their LOSAP account. This amount will be matched by the state.

* Rules will determine the vesting requirement.

           

Some other states that offer LOSAP programs are: New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia to name a few. There are approx. 5000 volunteer fire departments in the United States that have created a retirement benefit program for their volunteer firefighters. Laws in at least 40 states authorize LOSAP type plans.

 

Tire Program for Volunteer Firefighters

This benefit has no cost to the state.

The Iowa code amended by adding the following:

 

  1. Iowa volunteer firefighters may purchase tires under the joint State of Iowa purchasing authority
  2. Definitions:
    1. “volunteer firefighter” a firefighter who has been completed training and serves their community as a volunteer firefighter.
    2. “vehicle” a personal vehicle owned by the volunteer firefighter used to respond to a fire
  3. If authorized by the fire chief the enrolled volunteer firefighter may purchase four vehicle tires every year through the fire department or municipality’s contract to purchase tires under the state discount authority. The firefighter must have served at least one full year to receive this benefit.
    1. The authorization must be on Fire Department or Municipality letterhead and must include the following:
      1. Volunteer firefighters name
      2. License plate number’
      3. Starting date as a volunteer with department
      4. Verification that volunteer has completed training
      5. Signature of the Fire Chief and dated.
    2. The volunteer firefighter shall be responsible for all related taxes due at the time of purchase

Rules to be determined through the Administrative Rules process.

Effective upon enactment.

 

(Illinois and Colorado are two states that offer this benefit to their volunteer firefighters)

 

Personal Residence Property Tax Deduction

Voluntary by City, Municipality or Township

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      NO COST TO THE STATE AND VOLUNTARY FOR CITIES/MUNICIPALITIES OR TOWNSHIPS

1.

1. Real property owned by an enrolled member of an incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service or such enrolled member and spouse residing in a participating county, city or township shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of ten percent of the assessed value of such property for city, village, town, part town, school district, special district or county purposes, exclusive of special assessments, provided that the governing body of a city, village, town, school district or county, after a public hearing, adopts a local law, ordinance or resolution providing therefor.

2.

2. Such exemption shall not be granted to an enrolled member of an incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service residing in such county unless:

  1. the applicant resides in the city, town or village which is served by such incorporated volunteer fire company or fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service;
  2. the property is the primary residence of the applicant;

c.  the property is used exclusively for residential purposes; provided however, that in the event any portion of such property is not used exclusively for the applicant’s residence but is used for other purposes, such portion shall be subject to taxation and the remaining portion only shall be entitled to the exemption provided by this section; and

d.  the applicant has been certified by the authority having jurisdiction for the incorporated volunteer fire company or fire department as an enrolled member of such incorporated volunteer fire company or fire department for at least five years or the applicant has been certified by the authority having jurisdiction for the incorporated voluntary ambulance service as an enrolled member of such incorporated voluntary ambulance service for at least five years. It shall be the duty and responsibility of the municipality which adopts a local law, ordinance or resolution pursuant to this section to determine the procedure for certification.

 

3.  Any enrolled member of an incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service who accrues more than twenty years of active service and is so certified by the authority having jurisdiction for the incorporated volunteer fire company, fire department or incorporated voluntary ambulance service, shall be granted the ten percent exemption as authorized by this section for the remainder of his or her life as long as his or her primary residence is located within such county provided that the governing body of a city, village, town, school district or county, after a public hearing, adopts a local law, ordinance or resolution providing therefor.

4. Application for such exemption shall be filed with the assessor or other agency, department or office designated by the municipality offering such exemption on or before the taxable status date on a form as prescribed by the commissioner.

5. No applicant who is a volunteer firefighter or volunteer ambulance worker who by reason of such status is receiving any benefit under the provisions of this article on the effective date of this section shall suffer any diminution of such benefit because of the provisions of this section.

 

Emergency Response Districts

This legislation relates to the creation and administration of Emergency Response Districts. The bill would provide an option to Iowa communities to efficiently reorganize their fire service by repealing the current pilot program and instead authorize a governmental entity to establish an Emergency Response District. This would help to consolidate resources and operate more efficiently. This option will be most beneficial to small rural communities.

This bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.

The members are:

Senate Members

 

 

 

Fire and Public Safety Training Facility

Over the past few years, we have taken steps to hire a Bureau Chief for the Fire Service Training Bureau and relocate the operations to a more suitable location that is more compatible to provide proper services to firefighters needs. Now it is time to focus on making sure the Fire Service Training Bureau has the tools they need to ensure our volunteer firefighters have the training and skills to safely do their jobs.  There is a big need and desire to develop a public-private partnership in the development of an Iowa Fire & Public Safety Training Facility on or near Camp Dodge. Fire Chiefs from across the state see the benefit in having a centralized state fire academy and would like to see their firefighter training dollars stay in Iowa. Most State Fire Academies have a one or more burn training facilities on their campus. With proper infrastructure and quality training, Iowa can become the “go-to” training center for firefighters in the Midwest.

This bill will most likely go to the RIF Committee to request 2.1 million dollars to pay for the infrastructure needs. The land will most likely be donated by either Camp Dodge or Cordeva who has land directly across the street from Camp Dodge.

 

The funding for the Fire Service Training Bureau has remained status quo since 2008 when it dropped from 1 Million to $825,000.  So, for the past 14 years the Fire Service Training Bureau

has had to learn to do more with less, despite rising costs. Now is the time to fully fund the FSTB so they can provide quality training for all firefighters across the state to ensure they can do their jobs safely. This funding comes from the Justice Appropriations Committee, members include:

Senate

House

Emergency Responder Bill

SF 333-Emergency Responder

This bill addresses the rules when driving an authorized emergency vehicle when responding to a call. It also addresses the use of audible warning sounds and lights. It clarifies the use of emergency vehicles in a parade, funeral processions or when transporting dignitaries.

The bill also addresses liability and immunity for the driver of an emergency vehicle.

Why do we need this legislation?

*The current law does not recognize the use of emergency vehicles in parades, funeral processions and transporting dignitaries. If a child would get hurt at a parade by an emergency vehicle a lawsuit could be filed.

*The current code dates back to the 1980’s and needs updating.

*New legislation would protect drivers of emergency response vehicles when enroute to an emergency.

*This bill is broad and covers firefighters, ambulance, EMS, and police vehicles.

THE BILL HAS PASSED THE SENATE AND NOW SITS IN THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE:

 

To contact a legislator email them at firstnamne.lastname@legis.iowa.gov

To find your legislator go to: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find  Enter your address and your House and Senate legislator will be revealed.

Many legislators have coffees or town forums in their districts on Fridays OR Saturdays during the session. Attend these gatherings and ask them to help support the needs of volunteer firefighters.

It is important that firefighters from across IOWA connect with these legislators and ask for support of the IFA legislation. As always feel free to contact the IFA Lobbyists: John & Cyndi Pederson with any questions or for more detailed information. Also, please let us know if you get a response from any of your connections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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