Legislation to eliminate a licensee surcharge only to national veterans’ organizations and volunteer fire companies passed the House unanimously recently.

House Bill 1048, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill), would amend Act 39 of 2016 that requires a $700 renewal surcharge for all licenses that are renewed or validated on an annual basis.

“This surcharge is financially burdensome,” said Knowles. “One reason for the significant drop in the number of volunteer emergency responders is requiring the volunteers to raise funds to pay for their own training to purchase equipment and to maintain facilities. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to grow their ranks in order to ensure responders will always be there to answer the call. For obvious reasons, the last thing we should ever be doing is requiring our veterans’ organizations to pay this $700 license fee.”

Knowles is also the author of House Bill 1189, which awaits action by the House of Representatives. The bill would address issues with recruitment, retention and training of volunteer fire and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel.

The lawmaker’s bills are part of the House’s continued commitment to supporting first responders – the “helpers and heroes” of our communities. The House is working to complete work on more than a dozen measures designed to boost volunteerism, offer more flexibility in funding and assure better access to training.

These changes are vital to shoring up the public safety infrastructure across the state, as fire and ambulance companies struggle to recruit both volunteers and staff and obtain the necessary financial support to keep their doors open.

“Pennsylvania has approximately 37,000 volunteer emergency responders. That number approached 300,000 in the 1970s,” said Knowles. “State fire officials estimate that volunteer firefighters save Pennsylvania communities about $10 billion annually. These people save lives and help people. We need to address staffing and funding challenges facing these vital public safety organizations.”

For more information about this legislation, or any other legislative topic, contact Knowles’ district office in Tamaqua at 570-668-1240, or in Hamburg at 610-562-3411. Information can also be found online at RepKnowles.com or Facebook.com/RepKnowles.

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