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Washington Fire Chiefs Legislative Report - July

Legislative Session Update

The Third Special Session of the 2015 Legislature began Sunday, June 28 after a tentative deal on the Operating Budget was reached early morning Saturday, June 27.  Both the House and Senate passed the Operating Budget on Monday, June 29, and the Governor signed it into law shortly thereafter, thus avoiding a partial government shutdown.  But while the Operating Budget has been passed, as well as the Capital Budget and new gas tax increase for the Transportation Revenue Package, there is still work to be done, as disagreements linger regarding the potential suspension of I-1351 regarding reductions in class sizes for grades 4-12, as well as on the bonding components of the Capital and Transportation budgets.  It is expected that legislators will return to Olympia sometime after the Fourth of July holiday in hopes of completing their work sooner than later.

Operating Budget – SB 6052

The final Operating Budget agreement was supported by a strong bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate, passing 38-10 in the Republican-controlled Senate and 90-8 in the Democrat-controlled House.  The final compromise agreement was released with little time to review, and no floor amendments were accepted in either the House or Senate.  Below are several components of the budget that are of interest to the Fire Chiefs:

Dept. of Natural Resources

·         $1.237 million in ongoing funding from the state general fund is provided for additional fire engine crews, specialized Helitack crews, and staff for increased coordination and business support.  DNR had originally requested $4.5 million.

·         $648 thousand is funded from the state general fund pursuant to HB 2093 for a master list of qualified fire suppression contractors, a local wildland fire liaison, staff support for a wildland fire advisory committee, and a report to the Legislature.

·         $4.65 million in ongoing funding and FTE staff are provided from the state general fund for the collection and analysis of LiDAR (a high-resolution remote sensing technology) data and increased geological expertise.

Military Department

  • $1 million is provided from the Oil Spill Prevention Account to add staff to EMD to facilitate development and review of local emergency planning response plans for compliance with the requirements in the federal Emergency Planning and community Right-to-Know Act as required in HB 1449 concerning oil transportation safety.
  • $5 million is allocated to grant financial assistance to an estimated 16 counties to replace analog 911 telephone equipment and continue to modernize to meet Next Generation 911 technology standards.
  • $8 million is diverted from the Enhanced 911 Account to backfill EMD from state General Fund reductions to their budget.
  • $1.85 million from the Disaster Response Account is provided to Okanogan and Ferry counties to address deficiencies within their communications infrastructure for 911 dispatch. Funds will be used to replace failing radio dispatching hardware within 911 dispatch center; build interoperability between each county's dispatch centers such that each can serve as a back up to the other; and build a wireless microwave network for 911 calls, dispatch centers and first responder radio operations.  This is in response to difficulties during the Carlton Complex Fires.

Dept. of Ecology

  • $1.04 million and 4 FTEs are provided from the Oil Spill Prevention Account pursuant to HB 1449 concerning oil transportation safety for 1) oil spill contingency planning by railroads transporting oil in bulk and 2) rulemaking and modification of technology systems to accommodate advance notice of oil transfer data from railroads and pipelines.
  • $1.9 million is provided from the state Toxics Control Account to strategically place oil spill response equipment caches where needed through an ongoing local government grant program in order to better prepare local communities for rapid response to potential oil spills from rail incidents.
  • $1.354 million in ongoing funding from the Oil Spill Prevention Account were provided to complete and maintain the response tools along rail corridors and marine waterways, and retain staff expertise on spill risk assessment, mitigation, and rapid oil spill response.

Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC)

·         JLARC’s $6.71 million government-performance audit budget is contingent upon performing the following study: 

o   The committee shall analyze the forest fire protection assessment established in chapter 76.04 RCW. The analysis shall include: (a) The process the department of natural resources uses to determine the assessments; (b) The statutory framework for assessing based on parcels and being considered forest land;  (c) The cost efficiency of the administrative processes to collect assessments and issue refunds; (d) The rates of the assessment for forest fire protection, including the costs of county assessor participation; (e) The historical relationship between the rates and protection expenditures or anticipated expenditures and eventual suppression expenditures; (f) How other states assess for protection or suppression; (g) Parcels assessed as forest lands that have become developed properties and are not covered, serviced, or taxed by a fire protection district. A report on the results of the analysis with any findings and recommendations shall be submitted to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 2016.

Washington State Patrol

·         $700,000 is provided from the Fire Service Training Account for the JATC program.

·         $200,000 is provided from the Fire Service Training Account for two FTEs in the State Fire Marshal’s Office to exclusively review K-12 construction documents for fire and life safety in accordance with the state building code. It is the intent of this appropriation to provide these services only to those districts that are located in counties without qualified review capabilities.

·         $8 million from the Disaster Response Account for fire service mobilization.

State Health Care Authority

·         A total of $14.113 million is allocated for HCA to implement the emergency ground transportation payment program under HB 2007 (emergency ground transportation) for governmental owned or operated providers.  The program will increase rates to allowable costs to maximize allowable payment levels under the Medicare rules.  Participating providers are responsible for providing the local match required to obtain federal matching funds for supplemental payments made under this program.

Fire Insurance Premium Tax

·         While previous version of the Senate Operating Budget had proposed redirecting a portion of the Fire Insurance Premium Tax revenue that is distributed to cities with LEOFF I medical obligations, no such transfer was included in the final budget agreement.

Capital Budget – HB 1115

The compromise Capital Budget was released Tuesday evening, June 30, with a vote taking place almost immediately.  It passed 96-2 in the House, and the Senate took it up shortly thereafter, passing it 44-1.  No amendments were accepted on the floor of either chamber.  The Fire Training Academy secured funding for several projects:

  • $1.85 million for FTA Access Road Repairs - $900K in current biennium and $950K in future biennia
  • $1.5 million for FTA Burn Building Replacement – $200K reappropriation in current biennium and $1.3 million in future biennia
  • $400 thousand for FTA Campus Communication Infrastructure Improvement

Additionally, language was included that allows State Patrol to enter into a financing agreement to fund additional improvements.  As stated in the budget:

Washington state patrol: Enter into a financing contract for up to $13,700,000 plus financing expenses and required reserves pursuant to chapter 39.94 RCW to replace the fire training academy burn building; however, local agencies that use the burn building must have indicated support for required fee increases to pay for the debt service for the financing contract.  Indication of support means at least sixty percent of local agencies which have used the facility within the prior ten years support the fee increase.

2015 Fire Service Legislative Successes

·         All-Risk Mobilization

o   HB 1389 (Goodman) was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor.  It takes effect 7/24.  This bill returns fire service mobilization to its originally-intended scope of all-hazard as opposed to limiting it solely for wildfires.  The bill was amended by the Senate to include a reporting requirement by the Washington State Patrol on non-fire mobilization requests, as well as a sunset date of July 1, 2019, which gives the Legislature several years to study the impacts of this change before extending it in perpetuity.

·         Washington GEMT Program

o   HB 2007/SB 5840 (Zeiger/Dammeier) – HB 2007 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on 4/29.  This bill will allow for the creation of Washington’s GEMT program to allow for additional cost-reimbursement by federal Medicaid dollars for ambulance transport services.

·         Vehicle weight and length limits

o   HB 1222/SB 5457 (McBride/Litzow) – HB 1222 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on 4/10.  This bill allows for increased vehicle weight and length limits for fire apparatus to facilitate cheaper and simpler purchase of new equipment and ensure compliance between existing apparatus and state law.

·         Biennial budget authority

o   HB 1313/SB 5182 (Zeiger/Dammeier) – HB 1313 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on 4/14.  This bill allows fire districts and RFAs to voluntarily move to a biennial (two-year) budget with mid-year review rather than simply an annual budget.

·         Oil transportation safety

o   HB 1449 (Farrell) – A compromise was worked out between the House and Senate regarding new rules and regulations concerning the transport of oil and hazardous materials through Washington State.

·         Community Paramedicine

o   SB 5591 (Liias) passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.  This bill authorizes the community assistance referral and education services (CARES) program to: (1) Use the services of emergency medical technicians, advanced emergency medical technicians, and paramedics; and (2) Partner with hospitals to reduce readmissions.

·         Basic firefighter training

o   HB 1382/SB 5455 (Griffey/Rivers) – HB 1382 passed and was signed into law by the Governor on 4/14.  This bill requires the director of fire protection to develop and adopt a plan for the Washington state patrol fire training academy to deliver basic firefighter training and testing.

·         Life Alert Services

o   SB 5346 (Ranker) – Passed the legislature and signed into law by the Governor on 4/10, this bill requires employees of companies providing personal emergency response services, when requested by first responders during an emergency, to provide the name, address, and other information necessary for first responders to contact their subscribers within the jurisdiction of the emergency.

·         Occupational diseases

o   HB 1604 (Reykdal) – Passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor.  This bill requires the department of labor and industries to convene a work group to discuss establishing definitions, policies, and procedures for mandatory reporting of hazardous exposures suffered in the course of employment by firefighters.

·         EMD – Continuity of Operations

o   HB 1047/SB 5020 (Goodman/Bailey) – HB 1047 passed and signed by the Governor.  This bill places responsibility on each state agency for developing an organizational continuity of operations plan that is updated and exercised annually in compliance with the program for interagency coordination of continuity of operations planning.

·         Public records exemption – E-911 data

o   HB 1980 (Springer) – Passed both chambers and was signed by the Gov.  This bill implements the sunshine committee's recommendations on exemptions from disclosure with regard to, among other things, information relating to enhanced 911

·         Fireworks regulation

o   HB 1702/SB 5914 (Moscoso/Benton) – Worked with stakeholders to see that neither bill passed during the 2015 session.  Some version of the issue is expected to return in 2016.  These bills would authorize a county or a city to enact an ordinance that is more restrictive than state law as to the days and hours of legal sale of consumer fireworks, the days and hours of legal use of consumer fireworks, and types of consumer fireworks that may be sold and used within the geographical boundary of that county or city.

·         Forest Fire Legislation

o   HB 2093 (Kretz) – Passed and signed into law by the Gov.  A compromise bill with DNR, this bill requires the commissioner of public lands to: (1) Appoint a local wildland fire liaison that reports directly to the commissioner or the supervisor and generally represents the interests and concerns of landowners and the general public during fire suppression activities of the department of natural resources; and (2) Appoint and maintain a wildland fire advisory committee to generally advise the commissioner on matters related to wildland firefighting in the state. Authorizes an individual to enter privately owned or publicly owned land to attempt to extinguish or control a wildland fire, regardless of whether the individual owns the land. Expands the duties of the department of natural resources with regard to maximizing the effective utilization of local fire suppression assets.

Posted: Jul 9, 2015,
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