The Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday passed SB417, which modifies and tightens allowable expenditures for fire departments that receive distributions from the Municipal Pensions and Fire Protection Fund or the Fire Protection Fund.
The bill expands and clarifies authorized expenditures.
Departments will be authorized to purchase:
· Nomex hoods or equivalent;
· The direct costs incurred due to the purchase of land, construction of new facilities, or expansion of current facilities when those costs can be demonstrated by the department to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of fire protection services, as well as maintenance required to support the functionality of physical facilities of the department;
· Internet and telephone bills that may include cell phones when the cell phone is used for fire department-related work only;
· Insurance policies, including:
· life insurance premiums to provide a benefit not to exceed $20,000 for firefighters;
· accident and sickness insurance premiums that may be offered to cover individual members of a volunteer or part-volunteer fire company; or
· umbrella policies that contain various types of insurance policies to protect against loss and liability so long as life insurance premiums in the amounts prescribed above and property/casualty insurance are part of any umbrella policy.
· Food, bottled water, and food-related items, such as disposable plates and utensils, to provide necessary meals and water to a fire company when responding to an emergency and is in no way connected to any fundraising events.
The bill eliminates a requirement that departments must purchase vaccines through the state immunization program or from the lowest-cost vendor available.
The bill also addresses commingling of restricted and unrestricted funds. The bill requires that volunteer or part-volunteer fire companies or departments must have a dedicated bank account for all funds received from the Municipal Pensions and Protection Fund, the Fire Protection Fund, and any other state distribution, including state grant money.
Distributions received from the Municipal Pensions and Protection Fund or the Fire Protection Fund must remain in the bank account dedicated to receiving state funds and be used in accordance with the law. All other moneys, including state grants, must be transferred out of the account used to receive state funds and transferred into another bank account within 60 days of receipt, and such a transfer must be in the exact amount of the deposit.
If any money is received from sources other than the Municipal Pensions and Fire Protection Fund or the Fire Protection Fund and is not transferred to another account within 60 days, the money may be used only in accordance with the law.
The bill came about based on recommendations from the Post-Audit Division of Legislative Services.
A Committee Substitute was presented to the committee, containing only technical drafting changes.
The Committee agreed to the language of the Committee Substitute, and it was then agreed to report it to the full Senate with a recommendation for passage.
Under the original committee reference, however, the bill is to be referred to the Committee on Finance. However, the Committee unanimously approved the Chair’s request to seek a waiver of the second reference to Finance.