House W&M Committee Approves ’Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act’
February 10, 2014
Representatives Pascrell and Larson ask Committee to Support other Volunteer R&R Bills
On February 4, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted unanimously to favorably report H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act. The bill, which was introduced by Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA), would clarify statutorily that volunteer fire and EMS personnel who receive nominal compensation will not be treated as employees under Obamacare. On January 10 the Department of Treasury announced that volunteer emergency responders who receive nominal compensation will not be treated as employees in the final implementing regulations of the health care reform law, which have yet to be issued.
In his opening statement on the bill, Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) said that Congress has a responsibility “to make it crystal clear in statute” for volunteers. Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA), the current Chair of the House Fire Services Caucus, said in his opening statement that passage of H.R. 3797 would “solidify” support for volunteers.
“The NVFC appreciates the bi-partisan support that we’ve received on this issue,” said NVFC Director of Government Relations Dave Finger, who attended the markup. “We are very pleased that the bill was reported favorably by a unanimous vote of the committee.”
During consideration of H.R. 3979, Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) entered into the record a letter that the NVFC sent last month to House co-sponsors of an earlier version of the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act. The letter thanked the co-sponsors for their support and asked them to co-sponsor additional legislation that would “…simplify the treatment of volunteer incentives under the tax code and make it easier for communities to recruit and retain personnel…”
Pascrell is the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act (H.R. 1009), one of the bills referred to in the NVFC letter. H.R. 1009, which was introduced by Representative Peter King (R-NY), would clarify the tax status of length of service award programs (LOSAPs) to make it easier to guarantee contributions to the individual volunteers that they are intended for.
After Pascrell spoke, Representative John Larson (D-CT) made a ceremonial motion for the Committee to consider legislation that he has introduced, the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3747). The bill, which would prohibit federal taxation of property tax and up to $600 per year of other types of incentives that volunteer fire and EMS responders receive, was the other piece of legislation cited in the NVFC’s letter.
Now that H.R. 3979 has been approved by the Committee the next step would be for it to be taken up by the full House of Representatives, although that has yet to be scheduled. Use the NVFC’s Capwiz service to ask your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 1009 and H.R. 3747, which have yet to be considered by the Committee on Ways and Means.