Unanimous votes in the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee have advanced two bills to the House floor. A newly amended version of HB 955 would both extend and expand the Pennsylvania Fire and EMS Grant Program. Gaming dollars currently fund $25 million in firefighting grants per year, but Chairman Stephen Barrar’s(R-Chester) bill would raise that to $40 million. “It’s very important that we get this $40 million dollars into the hands of our fire companies, the great majority of them are volunteer companies,” Barrar says. He notes that state gaming revenues have increased dramatically in recent years, but the program’s dollars have been constant. The legislation would also reauthorize the program for another four years.
The second bill to see action in the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, Tuesday, would raise Pennsylvania National Guard members’ minimum pay. Under current law, National Guard members ordered into state service by the governor are to receive a minimum of $75/day. “The minimum pay for state activated National Guard troops would be increased, it has not been done so for the past 15 years,” says State Rep. Doug Reichley (R-Lehigh), whose bill would raise that minimum to $100/day. The Pennsylvania National Guard Association lists HB 1758 among its legislative priorities. “Obviously, with the amount of work and strain we’re putting on our National Guard troops who are activated in state of emergencies, now is the time to recognize them for their service,” Reichley told the committee.