The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) President, David Jacobowitz, announced the signature into law of FASNY’s Blue Light and Highway Safety Zone legislation. It was the last bill of eight separate legislative initiatives to go to the Governor for approval or veto during the 2010 New York State Legislative Session.
Volunteer Use of Blue Light (S5593 Aubertine D Watertown) (A8470 Gordon I Albany)
This legislation allows for blue lights for rear projection only, to be placed on all Volunteer emergency vehicles in combination with red and white lights. It continues exclusive use of the blue light by volunteers on personal vehicles to be projected in 360 degree fashion, and amends vehicle and traffic law to add the blue light notifying drivers to reduce their speed when approaching emergency vehicles displaying red, white and blue lights.
Source Patient Testing (S 8227 Duane D NY) (A11487 Gottfried D NY)
This legislation revises the informed consent requirements associated with HIV/AIDS testing and provides appropriate information in situations where a volunteer has been involved in a significant exposure creating risk of contracting HIV infection. Results of a source patient test, but not the patient’s identity, would be available to appropriate medical personnel in order to make decisions regarding post-exposure medical treatment for the Volunteer responder.
Heart Bill (S2769-A Valesky D Auburn) (A 5895-A Magee D Oneida)
This legislation extends for another 5 years, a presumption that Volunteer Firefighter heart related disabilities can be attributed to volunteer firefighting activity. Although this presumption is subject to scrutiny through the worker compensation claims process it recognizes the unusual risks take by volunteer firefighters and establishes a system of benefits for volunteers that die or become injured in the line of duty.
Cancer Impairment (S5114 Foley D Suffolk) (A 8516 Russell D Watertown)
This legislation extends for another 5 years, a presumption that Volunteer Firefighter lung disabilities can be attributed to volunteer firefighting activity. Although this presumption is subject to scrutiny through the worker compensation claims process it recognizes the unusual risks taken by volunteer firefighters due in large part to the smoke inhalation that occurs as a result of firefighting activities. It also allows other contributing factors to be considered such as the proliferation of synthetic chemicals and resulting fumes at fire scenes.
Health Insurance (S.5111 Breslin) (A.8215 Destito)
This legislation allows active Volunteer Firefighters and EMS responders to approach the local government they serve, and at their own expense, be offered the same health insurance coverage that is available to local government employee. Under the law the coverage is available to the volunteer responder and their family. The law is intended to give the volunteer an option that is less expensive than health insurance coverage available in the private market.
Low Interest Loan Fund (Budget Bill)
This legislation, passed as part of the 2010 – 2011 budget has authorized an additional 1.5 million dollars of funding for the Emergency Services Low Interest Loan Fund which is designed to make low interest loans to cities, villages, fire districts, counties and towns to acquire, upgrade and improve eligible fire facilities, fire apparatus and equipment. For the past several years, the State’s budget contained a $4.1 million appropriation for the Loan Fund. This figure includes the additional $1.5 million derived from the cellular –911surcharge. FASNY has continued to advocate for this appropriation.
Two key legislative initiatives met with a veto. Both Haz Mat Spill Cost Recovery and Volunteer Firefighter and EMS Job Protection were vetoed by Governor David Paterson because of certain technical objections raised by employers, local government entities, state agencies, and labor unions. The veto message on these bills was clear in citing corrective action necessary. FASNY has conferred with the respective sponsors and expects to see reintroduction of amended versions in the 2011 legislative session.
Volunteer Firefighter Job Protection (S4988 Foley D Suffolk) (A9856 Thiele I Suffolk)
This legislation is designed to ensure volunteer firefighters and EMS responders won’t lose their jobs because they were late or missed work while performing their duties. It is a limited protection for the responder, not to exceed three hours of authorized absence in any 12 month period which must be confirmed by a Chief or person in charge of the dispatch.
Haz Mat Spills Cost Recovery (S5113 Foley D Suffolk) (A2692-A Sweeney D Suffolk)
This legislation provides cost reimbursement to Fire Companies and the local government entities they serve for costs associated with responding to spills of hazardous materials. The Fire Company can determine the source of the spill, itemize the expendable material used in the clean up, and inform the local government of the amount to bill the spiller not to exceed $7500 per spill.