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NVFC updates legislative priorities at annual spring board meeting

NVFC legislative priorities get updated
Broadband for First Responders (H.R. 5081) has been introduced as a top new priority in NVFC

The new set of NVFC legislative priorities would enhance the standards of safety and security across the U.S.

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Board of Directors updated the NVFC's Legislative Priorities at the annual Spring Board Meeting. This included re-ordering the priorities and adopting a new top priority: the Broadband for First Responders Act (H.R. 5081), which was introduced by Congressman Peter King (R-NY), the Chairman of the House Fire Services Caucus, on April 20.

The new list of Legislative Priorities is as follows:

1. Broadband for First Responders Act (H.R. 5081)

2. Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program

3. Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act (H.R. 1792)

4. Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3666/S. 3136)

5. Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Job Protection Act (S. 1025)

6. U.S. Fire Administration

7. Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (H.R. 1194, S. 2947)

8. Supporting Emergency Responders Volunteer Efforts Act (H.R. 2601/S. 857)

9. Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighter Assistance Act

10. Citizen Corps/Fire Corps Funding and Authorization

New updated legislative priorities would enhance the working and performance of NVFC

H.R. 5081 directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to "allocate the paired electromagnetic spectrum bands of 758-763 and 788-793 megahertz for public safety broadband communications and shall assign such paired bands to public safety." In March, the FCC publicly announced plans to auction off the 10 MHz of radio spectrum referred to in the bill to an entity in the private sector. The spectrum in question was offered by the FCC in a 2008 auction that did not garner any bids above the minimum asking price. Under the terms of the 2008 auction, the winner would have been required to build a nationwide broadband communications network designated for priority use by public safety agencies.

"Public safety needs this radio spectrum to improve our ability to communicate," said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. "Volunteer public safety agencies rely heavily on mutual aid to deal with responses to major incidents, and interoperability is a significant challenge because there are so many different types of communications systems in use. If the FCC moves forward with their plan to auction off this radio spectrum, it will be gone forever and public safety will lose a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire this desperately needed radio spectrum."

In addition to adding H.R. 5081, the Board voted to move the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3666/S. 3136) up to the fourth priority. This legislation would extend a federal income tax exemption on recruitment and retention incentives that volunteer emergency responders receive from state and local governments. The current benefit, which was originally enacted in 2007, is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

The Board also moved the Ryan White Reauthorization Act and Volunteer Mileage Reimbursement Rate Increase from Legislative Priorities to Monitored Items. The Ryan White Reauthorization Act passed last year, re-implementing first responder notification provisions that had been removed from law in 2006. The NVFC continues to support increasing the federal mileage reimbursement rate for volunteers but decided to move it to the Monitored Items list.

Learn more about all of the NVFC's Legislative Priorities and Monitored items at the following link.

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