The state senate has approved bills to boost recruitment efforts of local fire departments and EMS squads and to protect certain firefighters' state tax credits, Senator James L. Seward said today. Seward is chairman of the Senate Majority Task Force on Voluntary Emergency Services.
"Both bills will help our upstate volunteers in fire and emergency services," Seward said. "Our volunteers do a great job in our rural areas for little or no compensation, and they need to be supported. These bills will help encourage voluntarism and thus help keep our rural communities safe."
The bills are:
*S. 5775 fixes a problem in current state law that prohibits young volunteer firefighters from driving at night to respond to emergencies with their departments or squads. Under the bill, junior operators who serve with volunteer fire or ambulance departments would be allowed to drive at night to respond to emergencies under the bill. Current law prevents junior license holders from driving at night (between 9 pm and 5 am) except to go to or from school, or to or from a place of employment, unless accompanied by a parent;
*S. 3944 protects voluntary firefighters or ambulance workers who get a local property tax break from a one-time disqualification for the state income tax credit. The bill ensures that those who had previously received a real property tax break for their voluntary fire/EMS service are not prevented from receiving the state income tax credit for 2007. The law allows the income tax credit only if the eligible volunteers were not receiving a real property tax credit. Because the real property tax cycle and the income tax cycle are different, volunteers must be given additional time to alert their assessors that they wish to discontinue the real property tax exemption and should not be prevented from receiving the income tax credit for 2007 as a result of their previous application for the real property tax exemption.
Both bills are pending in the assembly.