New York State
Association of Fire Chiefs

Providing Service to Those Who Serve

Blog

2017 Legislative Review

Provided by The Vandervort Group, NYSAFC's government affairs representative.

The Vandervort Group is happy to report that we had another successful legislative session with many accomplishments. While we still have goals left on the table, we are in a good position to advance them next year. Thank you to NYSAFC Executive Director Jerry DeLuca for all of his fine work, along with everyone at NYSAFC, and thank you to all the men and women who participated in 2017 Fire Service Government Affairs Day.

CANCER COVERAGE

S.1411-B (Griffo) / A.711-B (Gunther) – Relates to the New York state volunteer firefighter gap coverage cancer disability benefits act.

Status: Passed both houses
NYSAFC Position: Support

After years of working to secure benefits for volunteer firefighters with nearly all of the fire service organizations in the state, we are happy that this year we were able to pass a bill through both houses of the Legislature that will make a big difference in volunteers' lives who are exposed to carcinogens in the line of duty. The bill will allow volunteers who are diagnosed with certain cancers to receive a lump sum payment of $25,000. Firefighters who can no longer work are eligible for $1,500 per month of disability and the families of those who die are eligible for an accidental death benefit of $50,000. We will continue to work together with all of our fire service partners to convince the executive branch that this bill must be  signed into law.

FIRE CONTRACTS

S.5785 (Marchione) / A.7089 (Magnarelli) – Relates to fire protection contracts with incorporated fire companies.

Status: Passed both houses
NYSAFC Position: Support

This is a New York state comptroller program bill with the stated purpose to increase transparency relating to the contract negotiation process for fire protection contracts between incorporated fire companies and fire districts, towns, or villages. The bill requires submission of an itemized statement of estimated costs with the intent that transparency will help promote a better negotiation process that can result a fair and equitable price for fire protection services. This is appropriate since both the local government and the fire company are discharging a function for the benefit of the public in providing for fire protection.

AMBULANCE BILLING

S.363-A (Little) / A.7717-A (Jones) – Provides that authorities having control of a fire department or fire company which provides emergency medical services may establish fees and charges for services; authorizes health insurer payments to non-participating or non-preferred providers of ambulance services licensed under Article 30 of the Public Health Law.

Status: Senate Finance Committee, Assembly Local Government Committee
NYSAFC Position: Support

Allowing fire districts to bill insurance companies and the federal government for ambulance services was a top priority this year that has been left unfinished, despite aggressive lobbying in both legislative chambers. Many districts, especially rural ones, are facing difficult budget decisions due to the property tax cap and rising costs. Allowing them to bill for ambulance services is a good way to ensure that EMS is provided, yet allow for these districts to balance their budgets without breaking the tax cap. Unfortunately, the proprietary ambulance services, United New York Ambulance Network (UNYAN) and NYSVARA, threw up a number of roadblocks and ultimately were not negotiating in good faith while time ran out on session. That said, we are in a great position to pass the bill next year due to extensive work on amendments that we believe alleviate the concerns on the other side and allow for all services to bill patients directly. We have strong, capable sponsors, and will aggressively push for the bill in next year's session. However, we will need strong grassroots support at the fire department level to convince legislators of the need to pass this legislation.

QUALIFICATIONS FOR FIRE CHIEFS

S.6242-A (Akshar) / A.8057-A (Abbate) – Relates to the qualifications of fire chiefs.

Status: Senate Civil Service Committee, passed Assembly
NYSAFC Position: Oppose

We were successful in blocking this surprise bill pushed by the Professional Firefighters Association (PFFA) that would require fire chiefs to satisfy the basic requirements for education, health, and physical fitness established by the state fire administrator and successfully complete training and education courses of minimum contact hour criteria approved by the state fire administrator and received certification for supervisory level 1 or higher. PFFA pushed the bill without consulting NYSAFC and continued to do so even after a joint meeting with all groups and Senator Akshar where NYSAFC explained its opposition to legislating “one size fits all” requirements. This bill is likely to come back next session and we will have to work over the summer with the senator to bring the groups together for a non-legislative solution.

DISABILITY BENEFITS

S.3904 (Griffo) / A.6367 (Magnarelli) – Provides total disability benefits for volunteer firefighters and volunteer ambulance workers for injuries sustained on or after July 1, 2017.

Status: Senate Rules Committee, passed Assembly
NYSAFC Position: Support

This bill would allow total disability benefits for volunteer firefighters in the case of temporary and permanent total disability when the firefighter is injured in the line of duty. We were able to successfully get the bill through the Assembly; however, the Senate would not move the bill this session. We have had extensive conversations with the Senate sponsor, who worked hard on the bill, and expect a strong effort next session to get the bill through.

BUILDING CODE UPDATES

S.4562 (Little) / A.6824 (Hunter) – Directs the state Fire Prevention and Building Code Council to update the state fire prevention and building code and the state energy conservation construction code.

Status: Senate Housing Committee, Assembly Rules Committee
NYSAFC Position: Support

The International Code Council crafted this bill in response to a nine-year lag in New York adopting the international building codes. It would require the state to adopt new codes within 12 months of their release. Strong opposition from the home builders who fear sprinkler system mandates killed the bill.

UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE

S.742 (Richie) / A.3368 (Brindisi) – Prohibits the use of chemical flame retardants on residential upholstered furniture.

Status: Senate Environmental Conservations Committee, Assembly third reading
NYSAFC Position: Support

As in previous years, the Senate and Assembly cannot come to a two-house agreement on the proper approach on this issue. Our plan going forward is to meet with the furniture manufacturers to discuss a possible solution, such as the one reached in California.

ILLEGAL BUILDING CONVERSIONS

S.6178 (Brooks) / A.1226 (Zebrowski) – Relates to violations of the uniform fire prevention and building code.

Status: Senate Housing Committee, passed Assembly
NYSAFC Position: Support

The Senate and the Assembly majorities have been unable to come to an agreement on this issue. We have been working with stakeholders to try to find a workable solution and will continue to do so by bringing the Department of State and the Building Codes Division to the table.

LEMON LAW

Municipalities and fire districts are paying large amounts of money for fire apparatus. This legislation would help to ensure that fire apparatus is properly guaranteed and that it is available to serve the public and not in a service bay being repaired.

Status: This bill is not yet introduced; however, Assemblywoman Monica Wallace from Erie County has agreed to sponsor the bill. We are also working with a number of senators who expressed interest in introducing the bill when we spoke with them at Government Affairs Day.

FIREWORKS OPT-OUT

S.724-A (O'Mara) / A.2290-C (Morelle) – Relates to authorizing the sale and possession of sparkling devices outside of cities with a population of one million or more; removes requirement that localities authorize sparkling devices in their jurisdictions; authorizes counties to opt out if they pass a local law.

Status: Passed both Houses
NYSAFC Position: Oppose

This purpose of this bill is to eliminate the regulatory “patchwork” that presently exists with counties in New York state by exempting “sparkling devices” from the definition of “fireworks” and “dangerous fireworks,” but permitting counties to adopt local laws that prohibit the use and sale of such devices. NYSAFC opposed this bill on the grounds that it would increase access to dangerous, fire-causing sparkling devices and force localities to opt-out of allowing such devices instead of opting-in. Unfortunately, the bill had strong sponsors who pushed it through despite our objections. We will be filing a memo with the governor's office to oppose him signing it

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