Emergency volunteers rally to support state legislation

The Princeton Packet 

May 16, 1986 

Emergency volunteers rally to support state legislation

By Nancy Freiberg
Statehouse Bureau 

TRENTON — The Union Fire Co. and Rescue Squad of Titusville was one of about 20 emergency organizations that rallied Thursday in support of legislation aimed at increasing their ranks. 

Fire and rescue squad vehicles, including those from Hopewell, Pennington, Lawrence, and Manville, lined up on West State Street in front of the Statehouse to rally for their cause. 

A few hours later eight bills already expected to pass cleared the state Assembly, including a $2 million low-interest loan fund to allow volunteer emergency service organizations to buy vehicles and equipment, a $1,000 state income tax exemption for volunteer fire and rescue workers, and a $50,000 benefit to survivors of volunteer emergency workers who were killed in the line of duty. 

“Membership has been steadily declining,” observed Martin Amison, captain of the Titusville squad, “It’s very hard to keep people once they know the amount of training that’s necessary.”

Mr. Amison said the benefit for survivors of emergency workers is particularly important because the federal government provision is “very minimal.”

Other bills in the package that passed Thursday would increase the amount of annual aid municipalities may appropriate to fire companies from $45,000 to $60,000, extend workers’ compensation to include travel to and from emergency calls, increase county and municipal aid to first aid and rescue squads from $25,000 to $35,000, and study the feasibility of creating a pension program for emergency workers. 

Another bill would designate the third Sunday in May as Police, Firemen, and First Aid Recognition Day. 

The bills were recommended by a Republican task force that made its final report earlier this year. 

“With more women than ever forced to work out of the home and the population of those commuting to New York City and Philadelphia increasing, those able to respond to emergencies, especially during the day, has drastically decreased,” the report stated. “At the same time, more are choosing to live in New Jersey’s bedroom communities. New homes and businesses are creating an increase in the demand for emergency services.” 

The report concluded that “without some incentives, we believe the recruiting situation will only get worse.” 

Mr. Amison said he supports another bill recommended by the task force that was not voted Thursday. 

That measure would create a credit against corporate tax liability set at an amount equal to 50 percent of the gross wage, salary, or compensation paid to an employee during the time he or she responds to emergency calls.

“We have no industry in Titusville,” Mr. Amison explained. “So all our members have to leave town to go to work.”

“All we have now are people who do shift work,” he added. 

That measure and a number of other bills aimed at increasing the ranks of emergency volunteers are expected to be voted on by the Assembly before the Legislature takes its summer break at the end of June.

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