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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

PA Senator Introduces Legislation To Allow Fire Companies to Charge For Services

 Senator Cris Dush

I am reintroducing legislation I put forward while in the House to authorize volunteer fire companies to recoup their costs associated with an emergency response that do not include the costs of providing manpower. At the present time, there is no state law that authorizes or prohibits volunteer fire companies from billing for their services. 

This legislation would establish that a person who is involved in an emergency, that necessitates a response from a volunteer emergency services organization, shall be liable for the actual and reasonable response costs, when services are rendered.  This cost would generally fall on the insurance companies of those who cause an accident like we see on Interstate 80 and which add so much cost to our rural Fire and EMS services. 

As you know, our volunteer fire and EMS organizations continue to struggle financially to provide our local municipalities with fire and emergency services protection. The reasons for this are two-fold; 1) increased operation costs like trucks, turnout gear, etc. and 2) decreased municipal funding support. 

In the absence of a state law, the county courts have rendered two mid-1990 court decisions. The Lima Fire Co. No. 1 v. Rowe et. al. decision ruled that a fire company could bill to cover their actual and reasonable costs, while the Cherryhill township Volunteer Co. v. David Marcus Jr. decision ruled that they could not. The confusion is well shown in the letters brought forward in a hearing held last September by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which showed insurance companies denying a fire company’s submitted claim, citing the lack of an ordinance or statute requiring payment of a claim. 

The diversion of opinion here further illustrates the need for a uniform standard of reimbursement. My bill will do just that. 

In addition, our legislation is a forward-thinking proposal that will codify the enabling ordinance described in the Cherryhill decision; thereby, providing our more than 2,400 volunteer services organizations a way to recoup expenses by billing for real and reasonable reimbursement costs, not for manpower or labor costs. The cost recoupment may include items such as chemical agents used, the refill of air tanks, flares used at emergency scenes, fuel to operate apparatus, etc. In short, my proposal is a cost recovery measure, not a revenue enhancement process. 

Furthermore, under our proposal, a fire company is prohibited from billing an individual who has paid a tax to the municipality wherein the fire company is located to fund the fire company. It will also prohibit insurance companies from requiring a contract with the company for the purposes of billing. The legislation will put an appeal process in place, and the losing party will be responsible for all costs of the appeal.

19 comments :

Anonymous said...

Just gave insurance companies another excuse to raise premiums on insurance policies!

Anonymous said...

1:44 Amen!

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, under our proposal, a fire company is prohibited from billing an individual who has paid a tax to the municipality wherein the fire company is located to fund the fire company". So property owners that support the fire company thru local property taxes cannot be billed but individuals that are renters in the community or visitors to a community can be billed. This sounds like it could be a billing nightmare for the local fire companies. How about people who rent apartments in the typical subsidized housing units in communities, will Medicaid or Medicare be billed for those individuals?

Anonymous said...

Could I then sue the fire company if all I have left is the foundation.

Anonymous said...

Renters pay property taxes, it is part of the cost of renting. Even people in hotel / motel stays are paying property taxes as part of the room rate. Customers in stores and restaurants also are paying property taxes because it is included in the cost of product or service.

So, if a fire in Coudy is fought with help from Port, does the Coudy resident have to pay Port? This will never stand.

3:08, What does Medicaid / Medicare have to do with any of this? We are talking property taxes and property insurance.

Anonymous said...

5:06 - If you read the article they are referring to Fire Companies billing a persons insurance company

Anonymous said...

6:43, It doesn't matter if it is an insurance company or not, the resident is the one that would eventually pay for it. You can not just go after the insurer without first going thru the insured. Insurance is not free. Somebody is always paying for the settlements.

Again this will never stand.

Anonymous said...

5:06 - "a fire company is prohibited from billing an individual who has paid a tax to the municipality wherein the fire company is located to fund the fire company" I don't know what the actual language in the legislation says but this article says an individual who has "paid a tax to the municipality" it doesn't mention anything about indirect payments to a property owner that may be a part of somebody's rent, then the property owner pays the taxes. I lived in rentals for 15 years and never received a property tax bill from any municipality.

Anonymous said...

7:19, my point is that everyone pays property taxes in some manner. When you rented, part of your rent was used by the landlord to pay the property tax. You did not pay the municipality, but you paid the landlord and the landlord paid the tax. If there was no tax on the rental, you would have paid less rent. Come on now, this is not that complicated.

Anonymous said...

5:06 p.m. Commenter-Renters do not pay property taxes.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the fire departments should all just close up and stop responding altogether. It costs money to run a fire department. Why should these firefighters have to keep giving more of their time for training and fundraising. As a fire fighter, I’m all for training to keep myself and fellow members safe, but why do I have to keep missing my family functions to raise money for an organization that should be funded by everyone. I could just quit altogether which is happening all over the nation but I continue to do it because it could be my family that might just need help. People need to start realizing things aren’t free in life. Someone has to pay for it someway or another.

Anonymous said...

Since we all seem to be pretty twisted up about this “not standing”...(I’ll say it again for emphasis, “this will not stand”), then someone better start working on a ‘plan B’, because in the not so distant future you’re going to have to pay for fire protection, because the days of the free volunteers are seriously numbered. Pay now, or pay later...it’s up to you.πŸ˜‰πŸ§‘πŸ»‍πŸš’πŸ‘¨πŸ»‍πŸš’πŸ‘©πŸΌ‍πŸš’πŸš’

Anonymous said...

They should charge all the dumba$$es that are causing all the wildfires.

Anonymous said...

"This cost would *generally* fall on the insurance companies..."

And then we all pay higher premiums, except for the ones who find out they can no longer afford insurance.

Great plan, Dush.

Anonymous said...

I guess I’m going to have to start getting receipts for the money I donate when I’m stopped on the road by members of the fire department. Next thing ya know, they’ll be putting a lean on your property for failure to pay.

Anonymous said...

Just another additional tax. So if I don't want them to put out my fire and they do, do I get to sue them cause I didn't pay my taxes.

Anonymous said...

I guess he doesn’t realize there are many more people than volunteers that vote

Anonymous said...

People, I think the 'will not stand' means that it will not stand in the courts.

There is no question that fire departments have expenses. If those expenses become too much, then they close down or the costs are submitted to the local gov't, they are added to the budget and then added to the property tax assessments. That is what happens in every municipality that has a fire department that can not sustain a completely volunteer department. Sorry, but that is how it works.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHA That's what you get for electing crooked officials. Always looking out for the insurance companies lining their pockets.