A Special Report
from the New York State Assembly

Committee on
Local Government

Robert K. Sweeney, Chair square Sheldon Silver, Speaker square September 2003

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney
Robert K. Sweeney,

NYS seal

For additional information, please contact:

Robert K. Sweeney
Chair, Assembly Committee on Local Governments

Room 837 LOB
Albany, New York 12248


Funding For Local Wireless 911 Programs
The Legislature’s budget included funding for an Expedited Wireless 911 program. This program will dedicate a portion of the revenue from the existing surcharge on wireless phones to support $100 million in grants to help localities upgrade their wireless 911 systems. The grants will help local public safety answering points meet the FCC requirements for determining wireless caller identification and location, requirements commonly referred to as Phase I and Phase II. The Expedited Wireless 911 program is new funding and will supplement the existing $10 million local 911 reimbursement program. The existing State 911 Board will approve local implementation plans and make recommendations to the Dormitory Authority, which will award the grants.

Scholarships for Volunteer Firefighters/Ambulance Workers
The 2003-04 Budget contained $4 million in funding for volunteer recruitment service scholarships. The funding will continue a scholarship program begun last year.

One scholarship per volunteer organization is available for part or full-time study in an approved post-secondary degree program. The program is administered by the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC).

Organizations are responsible for establishing local eligibility guidelines beyond those required by the program.

Scholarship applications are currently available from local fire and ambulance organizations. Additional information can be found on the HESC web site located at www.hesc.org or by calling 1-888-697-4372.

Supplemental Service Award Programs
A.4618-A (Sweeney)
Many volunteers have provided decades of service and are now facing difficult financial times. This legislation would permit localities to create a new service award program to supplement the existing local service award programs currently authorized in the General Municipal Law. Supplemental award programs would recognize volunteer ambulance workers and firefighters currently eligible to participate in the existing service award program. Volunteers who have provided at least one decade of service in the time frame specified by the locality prior to the adoption of a service award program would be eligible. Establishment of a supplemental award program would be at local option. This legislation has passed both houses.

Service Award Program Credit
A.5006 (Sweeney)
New York State is fortunate to have many people who also serve as volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. In an effort to encourage retention of these volunteers, this legislation would permit volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers to receive service award credits even after reaching entitlement age and collecting benefits. This legislation has passed both houses.

Service Award Program Credit for EMT Classes
A.1503 (Tokasz)
Currently, volunteer firefighters who participate in training courses of over one hundred hours, typically EMT classes, receive only fifteen service credit points. In recognition of the importance of EMT training, this legislation will increase the amount of service credit for completion of courses over one hundred hours in duration, to twenty-five points. This legislation has passed both houses.

Extension of Heart Disease Disability Benefits
(A.4590 Magee; Chapter 89 of the Laws of 2003)
In 1977, the Legislature found that volunteer firefighters often suffered injuries or deaths resulting from heart attacks suffered in the line of duty. The Legislature also found that claims of injuries from heart attacks were often subjected to lengthy delays. As a result, the Legislature added a new section 61 to the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law establishing procedures for the handling of such claims. This legislation extends, until June 30, 2005, provisions relating to disability due to heart disease.

Actuarial Involvement in Service Award Programs
(A.3592 Tonko)
The existing statutes governing volunteer firefighter service award programs lack clarity regarding the need for actuarial services. This legislation clarifies that actuarial services are required only for service award programs which offer defined benefit plans. This legislation has passed both houses.

Volunteer Firefighter Membership
A.8175-A Rules (Magee)
The process for membership in a fire company involves many different steps. This legislation will ensure that volunteer firefighters are not denied benefits because of an administrative oversight in the membership process. This legislation has passed both houses.

Volunteer Ambulance Workers Benefits
A.2213 (Sweeney)
Volunteer ambulance workers provide an important service to the people of New York State, and unfortunately, the provision of that service brings with it an inherent danger. Since 1991, nine volunteer ambulance workers have been killed in the line of duty. The tragic events of September 11th have brought even closer to home the important role of emergency service providers and the dangers involved with their work.

The funeral expense and death benefit payments of the Volunteer Ambulance Workers’ Benefit Law mirror the provisions of the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law; however, the provisions of the Firefighters’ Benefit Law have been amended several times since enactment to provide benefit increases. Volunteer ambulance workers last received an increase in 1988. This legislation will provide volunteer ambulance workers with a much-needed benefit increase and re-establish parity with the benefits currently received by volunteer firefighters. This legislation passed the Assembly but the Senate has not yet taken action.


Assemblyman Bob Sweeney participated in the ground-breaking ceremony for the New York State Emergency Medical Services Memorial at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Sweeney was the Assembly sponsor of legislation establishing the memorial. The memorial will pay tribute to the men and women of New York State’s EMS systems who have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives in the line of duty. The memorial is expected to be dedicated in 2004. Pictured (left to right) are New York State Office of General Services Commissioner Ken Ringler, Senator John Bonacic, Assemblyman Sweeney, and Lt. Governor Mary O. Donohue.

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