© Fayetteville Professional Fire Fighters Association

Last Update 12-1-14

Fayetteville Weather Forecast, NC (28301)

Legislative Report from David R. Anders, President 

Fire Fighter and EMS Special Separation Allowance:  During the 2009 legislative session, PFFPNC lobbyists have been working on SB 908, the Special Separation Allowance for Fire and EMS.  According to Buck Consultants and Hartman and Associates, the cost is less than other retirement bills that have been introduced for fire fighters this session.  Buck estimates the cost of the statewide retirement plan at $2.0 Million the second year and $5.7 million the fifth year while Hartman and Associates estimate the cost at $1.7 the second year and $4.3 the fifth year.   

The two separate ½  cent sales tax increases in the mid 1980’s (currently $1.2 Billion) was to pay for law enforcement’s Separation Allowance and 401(k) and in 2008 is currently over three times what it cost for both law enforcement retirement programs in some cities and over five times in other cities.  For example, the City of Charlotte currently collects over $25.7 million from the two ½ cent sales tax increases and their cost for law enforcement Separation Allowance and 401(k) is $8.1 million.  The City of Asheville collects over $5.8 million and they pay out $0.8 million which is less than one fifth of what they collect. Statewide, the number of fire fighters and EMS personnel that would be affected by SB 908 is less than half that of law enforcement and the bill is asking for only the Separation Allowance.   

The difficulty of moving the legislation has not been a surprise.  Even with the cities and counties receiving more than three times the money they need to finance law enforcement’s Separation Allowance and 401(k), the economic downturn has lawmakers nervous.  Legislators have been struggling with proposals of finding new revenues through tax increases to make up for some of the $4.7 Billion short fall which is like deciding which political poison they should drink.  PFFPNC Lobbyists will continue the work through the end of the session.  SB 908 will also be alive during the 2010 short session. 

Fire and Rescue Pension Fund Contributions Withdrawal:  PFFPNC Lobbyists were able to assist Rep. David Lewis with the Fire and Rescue Pension Withdrawal (HB 1073).  A number of fire fighters who had changed departments complained that their old employer (department) withdrew their Fire and Rescue Pension contributions, some of which they paid themselves.  As a result, at their new employment, the fire fighter had to start from day one with no years of credit in the system.  The committee’s discussion was what should be done with contributions made by the Department on the behalf of the employee. 

The PFFPNC spoke in committee and explained that whether or not the employee is a volunteer or career, any contributions to the pension fund by the department is considered as compensation for their service to the department.  We were asked by the Committee Chair to meet with Rep. Lewis, Legislative Fiscal Research, Stanley Moore, and NCSFA Lobbyist Fred Bone and work out language that would be satisfactory.   It is our opinion the courts would take a dim view of the employer reneging on any type of compensation for services rendered. The bill’s language specifies that the money paid to the Retirement System by employers would be paid back to the employee only after five years of service prior to leaving the department.  The Bill was withdrawn from the Senate Calendar on July 1 and placed on the Calendar for the 8th.  It is unlikely but also unclear if any senators have plans to amend the bill again.  

The North Carolina Sheriff’s Association Tries Last Minute End Run:  On Wednesday, June 24, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association tried to attach an amendment to SB 389, Housing Authority Retirement for Charlotte and Robeson County, to place their Association’s employees as members of the Local Government Employees Retirement System.  None of the organizations watching pension issues this session saw this coming.  The PFFPNC spoke in opposition to the amendment as well as did Ed Regan, lobbyist for the NC Retired Governmental Employees Association.   

In years past, the Legislative Research Division, the Retirement Division and the Attorney General have all issued opinions that adding non-public employees to the System would disqualify the System as tax exempt.  This issue has surfaced several times due to paid fire fighters in combination departments, managed by a Board of Directors, being included in the Local Government Employees Retirement System.  Each time the IRS has warned the NC Treasury Department that if this continues, LGERS will no longer be a tax exempt system.  This would cost current employees in the System millions of dollars in tax money they are currently exempt from.   

Lobbyist and the Association’s Director, Eddie Caldwell, brought with him the Sherriff’s Tax Attorney to testify that adding the Sherriff’s Association employees to LGERS was legal.  His argument was the sheriffs were constitutional officers of the state and since their Association’s employees were working for sheriffs, this made them different in the eyes of the IRS.  Plus, he stated that if this were not the case, ten employees would not be noticed by the IRS.  

The PFFPNC’s argument before the Committee considering the amendment was that this was like rolling the dice and until the IRS said that it was legal, legislators it should reject the proposal.  The Pension Committee’s vote was 4 to 4 causing the amendment to fail.   

The Sherriff’s Association introduced the same language in a stand alone bill (HB 1095) early in the session.  Unable to move their legislation, the last few days of the session they slipped the wording of their unsuccessful bill in as an amendment to a bill that had one more step before being ratified.  The original SB 389 was passed by the House on June 25 and Ratified on July 1.  Fortunately, the PFFPNC was on the scene to help stop bad legislation which would cost local government employees millions of dollars in taxes if the System’s tax exemption was withdrawn.  It has not been determined what this would do to current retirees.  It is worth noting that some public employee’s organizations expect the sheriffs to try this again.

Firefighter / EMS Payroll Deduction

Career firefighters and paramedics perform invaluable services for their communities.  to enhance their skills, they often establish professional organizations to maximize training and educational opportunities.  In addition to their organization's professional purposes, they often sponsor services and charity events to give back even more to their communities.  These charities often include collection of funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, burn hospitals, working with Habitat for Humanity, and financially assisting numersous needy families in their communities.
In recognition to the value of the professional organizations in their cities, Chapel Hill and Raleigh have granted dues deduction to their employees associations.  With the modern computer technology, the basic cost for this service to local government is primarily limited to data entry.

Employees' dues deduction is not a new concept in North Carolina.  North Carolina currently performs this service for State Employees and Teacher Associations.  Most cities already deduct the association's dues for members of certain Fire and EMS organizations and some cities even pay the association's dues for their members- examples are the NC State Firemen's Association and the NC Rescue Squad Workers Association.

The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act

Fire fighters and police officers risk their lives every day to protect the public; they deserve the same right to discuss workplace issues with their employer that the federal government grants to most other workers.

The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, legislation granting fire fighters and police officers minimum collective bargaining rights, introduced as H.R. 980 by Representatives Dale Kildee (D-MI) and John Duncan (R-TN), overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in July.  In the Senate, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act was introduced by Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as S. 2123.  The bills establish minimum standards for state collective bargaining laws.
S. 2123, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, was offered and later withdrawn as an amendment to the Farm bill as a result of ardent opposition by a few anti-labor Senators.  The IAFF is optimistic that Congress will pass the bill in its second session. 
For more information about collective bargaining rights and current congressional action, click here: Fact Sheet
Learn more about the importance of collective bargaining rights for public safety officers:  Key Points

House Action:  H.R. 980
On July 17, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass H.R. 980.  To read more, click here:  House Passes Collective Bargaining Bill
See how your Representative voted on H.R. 980:  Collective Bargaining Vote
H.R. 980 is featured on YouTube - watch the video here:  Collective Bargaining Video
To read a copy of H.R. 980, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, click here:  Cooperation Act
View a list of members who cosponsored H.R. 980:  Cosponsors House

Senate Action:  S. 2123
On December 13, 2007, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act was offered and later forced to be withdrawn as an amendment to the Farm bill in the Senate.  To read more, click here:  Anti-Labor Senators Derail Fire Fighter Bargaining Bill
On October 1, 2007, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act was introduced in the Senate.  To read more, click here:  Bargaining Bill Introduced in Senate 
To read a copy of S. 2123, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, click here:  Cooperation Act 

View the list of Senators who cosponsored S. 2123:  Cosponsors Senate

NFPA 1710 Compliant Staffing

Who is the NFPA?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a non-profit organization established to create standards of operation for fire departments throughout the country. The codes written by the NFPA are considered the standard that fire departments are expected to meet. These codes include everything from safety equipment worn by fire fighters, apparatus and equipment used in the fire service to minimum staffing of a career fire department. These codes not only protect fire fighters, but also protect citizens by giving cities standards of operation that are expected to be met. NFPA codes are not laws, but rather standards of quality to ensure the health and safety of everyone affected by any fire department.
NFPA guidelines are set up based on research performed by trained members of the association. Scientific research, such as fire behavior in different environments and how different synthetic materials affect the burn process, is used in part to establish these guidelines. Previous history of fire department responses across the country can help the NFPA to have standards of how many firefighters it takes to effectively perform necessary tasks. Independent studies performed by groups like the American Heart Association help the NFPA in writing codes regarding EMS response. NFPA is such a respected organization in the fire department community that many cities and departments are adopting strict NFPA guidelines to make their fire departments up to national standards.

Why does this matter in Fayetteville?
NFPA Code 1710-Standard for Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments- involves staffing of career fire departments. In this code, the NFPA has used scientific evidence, past history and first hand experience to establish the minimum number of personnel required to safely and effectively operate on a fire scene. NFPA 1710 guidelines say that a first arriving company must consist of 4 fire fighters and arrive within 4 minutes of the initial 911 call. For an initial full alarm assignment (any structure fire) minimum personnel on scene should consist of 15-17 fire fighters arriving on scene within 8 minutes of the initial 911 call.

International City Managers Association (ICMA) Study
Understaffing of fire departments is a nationwide problem. So much so in fact, that the ICMA has conducted studies to determine the effectiveness of fire companies based on staffing. This information was published Managing Fire Services, 2nd edition. This international organization of city leaders recognizes the importance of a properly staffed fire department. This publication included this information:
1. Fire suppression operations have three basic functions: (1) rescue; (2) work involving ladder, forcible entry, and ventilation; and (3) the application of water. To raise ladders, ventilate, search, and rescue simultaneously takes quick action by at least four and often eight or more firefighters, each under the supervision of an officer.
2. If about sixteen trained firefighters are not operating at the scene of a working fire within the critical time period, then dollar loss and injuries are significantly increased as is fire spread.
3. As firefighting tactics were conducted and judged for effectiveness;
5 -person companies were 100% effective.
4 -person companies were 65% effective.
3 -person companies were 38% effective.

Download: NFPA 1710 Staffing