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Sue Bush
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Guest Column: Support For Firefighters Via Legislative Action

By Paul Vallone
01:30PM / Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This is to make the public aware of an issue pending before our state legislature related to public safety as well as Civil Defense and Homeland Security.

Although legislation involving license plates may seem mundane at first, firefighter license plates have grown in popularity across the nation. Much like amateur ham radio operator plates, which were introduced in the late 1930's and received a surge in popularity during the decades of the "Cold War", the modern-day "War on Terror" seems to be making these type plates a focal point for the protection of the public. This phenomenon was obersved in states such as Rhode Island during the turbulent era before WWII.

Today just 7 states including Massachusetts have yet to have this tool which also acknowledges firefighters for the job they do.

However today, there is another twist on these specific plates: what they fund. Based on the same idea as environmental plate, which a portion goes towards an environmental cause, some firefighter license plates support fire-related causes. This is the situation in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina. Funds generated by the license plates in those states support firefighter training. In this day and age of budget cuts and increasing obligations of state, municipal and volunteer fire services, state and local governments as well as fire chiefs are looking for ways to solve this problem without burdening taxpayers.

Here in Massachusetts, we have a Fallen Firefighter Memorial plate, but some are concerned about possible incidents of misrepresentation by those whose vehicles bear the plate. The Fallen Firefighter memorial license plate since it is not limited to firefighters. A similar plate in Illionis was used in a crime where the occupants of the vehicle were mistaken for firefighters in April of 2006, prompting the head of the Chicago firefighters union to say their plate should be limited to just firefighters and their families.

Massachusetts Senate Bill S-2101 provides for a plate(s) for firefighters, immediate family members of those lost in the line of duty as well as retired firefighters. The plate revenues would fund the Massachusetts Firefighters Academy Trust Fund coffers. The bill is quite similar to a law already in existence in South Carolina. There, a portion of the sales of their firefighter plate goes towards the South Carolina Fire Academy.

From a fire chief's perspective, a state-issued firefighter license plate is no more difficult to administer than a red light permit, which requires proper certification from a fire chief prior to the red light permit application submission. Another concern maybe the definition of a "Retired Firefighter" which in the case of the call/volunteer firefighter, most states leave up to the department's fire chief to decide. The general rule of thumb and defined in some states like Alabama is that they have at least 10 years of service as well as be at least 55 years old. 17 states include a retired firefighter provision. Rhode Island was the latest to adopt such a provision with their new Firefighter plate law. The New England states of Connecticut, Vermont and Maine also have firefighter plates.

Because of the language of Massachusetts Senate Bill S-2101, it is not limited to firefighters from municipal departments, and leaves the opening for members of indusrial fire brigades. Throughout our state, companies like Monsanto exist, where those who serve the company may not serve as firefighters anywhere else. Like the inclusion of retirees, this means more revenue and optimum opportunity of success for the proposed program.

We ask for the support of all firefighters as well as the public at large for Massachusetts Senate Bill S-2101 , a law long over due and a valuable tool for our civil defense. The bill provides the greatest opportunity for success because of its' language. And other than our Civil Defense, isn't the last lasting and profitable success of a program that supports the Academy and firefighter training really important?

Please contact Senate President Therese Murray and Speaker of the House Salvatore Dimasi as well as your local legislators in Boston to voice your support. I would like to see this issue at the forefront of the legislative agenda.

Additional information about the bill is available at the www.openmass.org/bills/show?bill_num=2101&chamber=Senate Internet web site.

Paul Vallone is a Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighter Association Region 5 Vice-president.


Your Comments
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My only question is: Why? Why don't we already have a plate just for firefighters. Not only because of their Civil Defense aspect, but license plates not only fund causes like the Massachusetts Firefighter Academy Trust Fund, a portion goes towards the roads, bridges, Metro parks like Boston Common, and the State Police under MGL Chapter 90. Isn't there a transportation funding crisis? I realize having more plates is like putting a band-aid on a broken leg in comparison to having gambling and Casinos. But shouldn't we be looking into every solution? Especially into ways that don't involve special interest. Some states have more than a hundred plates. For example, Virginia has a 180 plates that acknowledge and benefit multiple causes, including 2 Firefighter plates.

Many are under the impression, we already have a Firefighter plate, in the form of the Massachusetts Fallen Firefighter Memorial plate. Even more scary, some firefighters in bordering communities out of state are under that impression, not knowing it is available to the public at large. That shows there is a need to properly acknowledge our firefighters as is done in all other bordering New England states except for NH and MA. Not to mention the fact S-2101 would help bolster our Civil Defense by this acknowledgment and by the training the plate(s) fund. If knowledge truly is power, isn't the impowering firefighters with it, a person whose business is protecting mankind and it's works ( including Casinos); to our benefit?

I urge you to express your opinion and hopefully your support of S-2101 by e-mailing these people.

Transportation Cmte. Chairs.

Steven.Baddour@state.ma.us
Rep.JosephWagner@hou.state.ma.us

Legislative Leadership

Therese.Murray@state.ma.us
Rep.SalvatoreDimasi@hou.state.ma.us

from: Kevin L. Braileyon: 09-18 00:00:00-2007


 
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