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Mike K.
Republican PA 3

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  • Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act

    by Representative Mike Kelly

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    KELLY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I rise in very strong support of H.R. 33, and I want to thank Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McCarthy for allowing this legislation to come forward so early in this Congress.

    I agree with the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Larson). People always say: I wish you guys could get along; just get something done. This is something that we overwhelmingly believe in and we are going to get done.

    I think that the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta) has explained very clearly that it has to become statute. It can't be left to be some nebulous fact that is rolling around out there.

    Now, these people who do this work--and in Pennsylvania, 97 percent, almost eight out of every 10 firefighters come from the volunteer aspect of it; they are not paid. Yet because of some type of allowance they are given, they fall under the Affordable Care Act, and this would destroy volunteer fire departments as we know them. So what Mr. Barletta has very thoughtfully done is he has put forth a piece of legislation that would guarantee that these folks don't have to worry about that.

    Now, I have got to tell you, in the little town that I grew up in and live in, Butler, Pennsylvania, so many people volunteer their time to do the volunteer fire fighting. They are also the EMS. They are the first responders.

    Last spring, one of our volunteer firemen by the name of Ryan Sekerski, on his way home from work, he heard over his scanner that a fuel truck had overturned. The driver was trapped inside that truck. He then went to the scene of the accident, got his equipment that was in the trunk of his car, got out, and saved that driver's life. These are the people that we are talking about.

    When you come to the people's House, America's House, America's Congress, we look at the things that we can do together, things that just make sense. While we may disagree on some other aspects of what it is that we try to get done, on this, we are solid. This just makes sense for America. This makes sense for all those that lay their life on the line anytime there is an emergency or a fire. They do it voluntarily.

    Hundreds and thousands of hours in training go into this. They spend time away from their families. They take time away from personal time, where they could be doing other things, to get trained so that they can help other Americans who may need their help. It is absolutely incredible. It is so American. It is something we look at with a great sense of pride.

    And we went to the IRS and said: Listen, what we really need now is a statute that guarantees that these volunteer fire departments will not be put under pressure, where they would have to go out of business.

    This is not a health care issue, not as far as it is supplying health care or paying a fine for those that volunteer; but this is a health care issue for every single American for whom these people supply necessary services on a voluntary basis to save their lives and their property.

    So I think the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta) is a champion on this issue. He was in the last Congress and the fact that it has come forward again--it is so overwhelmingly supported by both sides of our House that it truly is America's Congress. It truly is America's issue. It truly is an issue that makes sense for all of us. It is maybe our small way of thanking all those folks that do that every day without any pay, just because of the greatness in their hearts.

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