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114th Congress Convenes, Important Fire Service Legislation Moves Forward in House


The 114th Congress convened on January 6, 2015. Twelve new Senators and 52 new House members have joined Congress. Lawmakers wasted no time getting to work. On Friday, January 9th, the House Appropriations Committee has released H.R. 240, the Fiscal Year 2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The bill provides $39.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, and increase of $400 million over the previous fiscal year.

Included in the spending bill is funding for a number of programs of importance for the nation's fire and emergency services. The Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs are funded at $340 million each. This is the same amount as in Fiscal Year 2014. The White House had initially requested $670 million to be split evenly between the two programs, a decrease of $10 million. The bill also includes $44 million for the United States Fire Administration (USFA) and $35.18 million for the Urban Search and Rescue System, the same amounts as in Fiscal Year 2014. The White House had requested $41.407 million for USFA and $27.513 million for the Urban Search and Rescue System.

The Department of Homeland Security is currently operating under a continuing resolution until February 27th. The 113th Congress adjourned without passing a appropriations bill for the department due to Congressional leaders opposition to the White House's immigration policies. The House is expected to start consideration of the bill on February 13th.  

On Tuesday, January 6th, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) introduced H.R. 33, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act. The legislation ensures that volunteer fire departments will not be required to provide health insurance to their members under the employer shared responsibility provisions ("employer mandate") of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).   The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) release regulations in February of 2014 that included language stating that fire departments and municipal governments will not need to include volunteers when calculating the number of full-time employees (or full-time equivalents) for the purposes of PPACA.   H.R. 33 codifies the regulations.

On Monday, January 12th, the House unanimously approved the legislation. It will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Please visit CFSI's website for updates on these important bills and others as the 114th Congress continues. 

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