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Bills would aid volunteer first responders

Published 5:44am Sunday, February 10, 2013

Column: Capitol Comments, by Shannon Savick

We are in full swing at the Legislature. Much of the media attention has been on issues surrounding gun safety.

I am continuing to gather input from you, my constituents, and from law enforcement officers, teachers, parents and gun owners from across the state who have been contacting me frequently. And I think we are going to be able to come together as legislators and find common sense solutions that work for Minnesotans.

Shannon Savick

But I’m also personally working on two bills that would help improve the public safety of our communities by offering better funding for first responders.

One of the bills would offer a tax credit for volunteer first responders. In communities all across the state, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get enough volunteers. As the current generation of firefighters and EMTs get older, it’s a continuous battle for cities and counties to find volunteers willing to take on the noble task of keeping our aging communities safe. These are critical positions throughout Minnesota that need to be filled.

This bill would offer a tax credit for first responders in the range of $500 that local departments could use as an incentive to bring in qualified volunteers.

Another bill would help defray the costs of turnout gear for local fire departments by adding a $5 fire safety fee onto homeowner’s insurance costs. Safety equipment keeps our firefighters safe when they rescue us, our homes and our businesses from fires and other emergencies. They are putting themselves in danger for the greater good of the community.

But safe equipment is expensive. It takes approximately $2,000 to both outfit and train a new recruit. I’ve been told by numerous fire departments in our district that grain elevators, ethanol production plants and house fires are just as devastating and dangerous as any fire in Minnesota. And we need those people fighting those fires to be protected with safe equipment.

I’ll be introducing these bills soon, in hopes of getting them heard by the Public Safety Committee and eventually the full House of Representatives.

Until that happens, I’ll be working on my other committee work and getting to know my colleagues in the Legislature. I’m so proud to be able to tell legislators from around the state about what makes our district great.

Being that voice for our district makes this position so special and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. So if you have any ideas, concerns, or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can find my contact info, and sign up for my email updates, by going to my legislative page www.house.mn/27a.

 

Shannon Savick, DFL-Wells, is the state representative for House District 27A.