BILLS WOULD AFFECT VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS
Two House sunset bills relating to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (H.B. 3390 by Harper-Brown and H.B. 2298 by Y. Davis) were revised in committee to apply new provisions to volunteer firefighters. Specifically, the bills would permit the Commission to establish minimum educational and training standards for volunteer firefighters, an idea that had never before been seen this session. These bills were already troubling because of provisions that extend regulation over paid fire departments. They are now worse.
Cities knew such efforts relating to volunteers were coming. An August 2007 “Self Evaluation Report” prepared by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection in preparation for a sunset review mentioned the possibility that efforts may be made to let the state directly regulate volunteer firefighters and fire departments, similar to the way paid firefighters are licensed and regulated. According to the report, such regulation would pose “significant costs” on cities.
The fact that this bad idea now shows up on a sunset bill is significant. A sunset bill must pass to keep the agency alive. Tacking bad ideas on to a sunset bill eliminates one way to realistically fight back against the idea—killing the bill entirely.
While education and training standards don’t amount to full-blown regulation of volunteer fire departments, they certainly represent the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. Cities with volunteer fire departments should contact their House members about these bills.