HARRISBURG – State Reps. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) and Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) today joined their House colleagues in unanimously passing legislation that would establish a special bipartisan, bicameral legislative commission to recommend improvements to the manner in which emergency services are delivered in Pennsylvania.
“Significant time has passed since the General Assembly enacted similar legislation in 2003,” said Causer.
“Despite the findings of that commission, Pennsylvania’s emergency service providers continue to experience a dramatic decline in volunteer participation while the costs associated with performing their duties increases. It’s time to take another look at what we can do to reverse those trends.”
The commission would be made up of state House and Senate leaders, as well as representatives of local government and emergency service providers throughout Pennsylvania. The group would be charged with producing a final report of all legislative recommendations by June 30, 2018.
“Three years ago, former State Fire Commissioner Edward Mann told a House committee, ‘Sooner or later, somebody’s going to dial 911 and nobody’s going to show up’ – words that should send a chill through every one of us,” Gabler added.
“We need to examine what it is that prevents more individuals from getting involved in public safety.”
Causer has already been spearheading the legislative effort by authoring the following two bills which address costs:
- House Bill 400 would increase charges associated with moving violations and DUI convictions and direct those funds to emergency medical service training and individual ambulance company equipment needs in rural Pennsylvania.
- House Bill 699 would increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for transportation of patients by emergency medical services. The current rate has been in place since 2004, when the figure was increased for the first time in 25 years.
“Both bills sit with the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee,” Causer said.
“It is a simple matter of bringing our currently insufficient funding mechanisms up to speed – something that is long overdue.”
Gabler has long been an advocate for volunteer firefighters and is looking to offset the burden of training hours and volunteer recruiting.
“In 1977, there were 300,000 volunteer firefighters on the rolls in Pennsylvania. Today, the number is closer to 50,000,” added Gabler.
“Twenty years ago, it was projected to cost about $20 million to start a paid fire department and $10 million a year to maintain it. Those numbers certainly haven’t gone down.
“Our emergency services need financial resources to function and easier access to training in order to help with recruiting and retention of volunteers. I know this resolution will provide us with the blueprint we need to help our Commonwealth’s first responders.”