Introduced by Representative Young of Orwell
Subject: Internal security and public safety; Vermont firefighter and emergency responder support system; fire protection and fire prevention
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to create a Vermont firefighter and emergency responder support system and a stable source to fund the system in order to enhance firefighter and emergency responder retention and recruitment and create a statewide fire department safety and personal protective equipment grant fund.
AN ACT RELATING TO FIREFIGHTER AND EMERGENCY RESPONDER RETENTION, RECRUITMENT, AND SUPPORT
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 20 V.S.A. chapter 182 is added to read:
Chapter 182. Vermont Firefighter AND EMERGENCY RESPONDER SUPPORT system
§ 3191. DEFINITIONS
As used in this chapter and unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(1) “Board” means the board of review and appeals created by section 3197 of this title.
(2) “Call” department means one whose members receive only minor compensation for time spent training or responding to emergencies.
(3) “Member” means any firefighter or emergency service responder who is covered under the provisions of this chapter.
(4) “Participating organization” means:
(A) a volunteer or call fire department;
(B) a municipal fire department, other than a full‑time paid (career) department;
(C) an organization providing services which are regulated under chapter 71 of Title 24;
(D) a nonprofit emergency services corporation or association;
(E) an unincorporated fire department which is recognized by the legislative body of a municipality as the emergency fire service provider for that municipality; and
(F) a hazardous materials responder if the organization is an integral part of a qualifying volunteer, call, or career fire department.
(5) “Support system” means the Vermont firefighter support system.
§ 3192. NAME AND DATE OF ESTABLISHMENT
The date of establishment of the support system shall be July 1, 2005. The system shall be known as the “Vermont firefighter and emergency responder support system,” and, by such name, all of its business shall be transacted, all of its funds invested, and all of its cash and securities and other property held in trust for the purpose for which received. The system shall qualify as a defined contribution plan under the United States Internal Revenue Code, as amended.
§ 3193. MEMBERS; ELIGIBILITY
(a) A member of a participating organization who is certified by his or her department chief or chief administrative officer as having met the qualification requirements as set forth in section 3197 of this title is eligible for benefits under this chapter. The member shall be currently active within the department or organization and an active member of the Vermont State Firefighters Association or the Vermont Ambulance Association.
(b) To be eligible for benefits under this chapter, the member shall be at least 18 years of age and shall have completed one full year of active fire or other qualifying emergency service participation.
§ 3194. CREDITABLE SERVICE
(a) A member who is called up for temporary active military duty shall continue to receive benefits available under this chapter. The board of review and appeals, in its discretion, may waive some or all of the qualification requirements when military duty prevents strict compliance with those requirements.
(b) A member who is disabled so that he or she is unable to perform the duties of a firefighter or other qualifying emergency responder may receive benefits under this chapter for up to two years, as determined by the board, for each disability.
(c) A member who is currently active on the date of the establishment of the Vermont firefighter and emergency responder support system, who has accrued a minimum of 35 years of active service with a participating or sponsoring organization, or both, shall be immediately credited $10,000.00 toward his or her retirement.
§ 3195. RETIREMENT BENEFITS
(a) At the end of each calendar year, each member of the system shall be credited $1,000.00 toward his or her retirement account. A member who qualifies as a member of more than one participating organization shall be entitled to one benefit.
(b) A member who has reached the age of 62 may retire after separation from the service by filing an application with the board of the Vermont municipal employees’ benefit system. Any member in service may be retired on a normal retirement allowance on the first day of the calendar month next following the attainment of age 62. Upon retirement, a member shall be entitled to the benefits accrued in that member’s retirement account pursuant to section 3199 of this title.
§ 3196. DEATH AND DISABILITY BENEFIT
The beneficiary of a member who dies prior to retirement shall receive at the member’s death a lump sum equal in amount to the benefits accrued in the member’s retirement account upon application to the board of the Vermont municipal employees’ benefit system.
§ 3197. BOARD OF REVIEW AND APPEAL; QUALIFICATIONS;
(a) There is created a board of review and appeal which shall determine the qualification requirements for member eligibility and shall adjudicate appeals of eligibility denials. The board shall comprise two members chosen by the Vermont State Firefighters Association, one member chosen by the Vermont Ambulance Association, and two members appointed by the governor.
(b) The board shall adopt rules which establish minimum qualification requirements for eligibility for benefits under this chapter, including requirements for continuing education and training relevant to duties of each individual firefighter or emergency responder.
(c) An appeal of a denial of benefits shall be conducted pursuant to the contested cases provisions of chapter 25 of Title 3.
(d) The board of review and appeals special fund for administration is established which shall be a special fund created under subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32 to be administered by the board. Interest earned on the fund shall be retained in the fund.
(e) The board may employ sufficient administrative staff as necessary for the board’s operation.
§ 3198. PARTICIPATION OF ARSONISTS
A member who is convicted of arson in any court of competent jurisdiction and who has exhausted all appeals of the conviction shall lose all accrued benefits received under this chapter and shall be ineligible for future benefits under this chapter.
§ 3199. VESTED INTERESTS
(a) A member who is eligible for benefits under this chapter shall be entitled to:
(1) 30 percent of the benefits after three full years of service as a member;
(2) 50 percent of the benefits after five full years of service as a member; and
(3) 100 percent of the benefits after 10 full years of service as a member.
(b) A member who transfers between participating organizations shall be entitled to continue membership in the system and maintain his or her retirement account.
§ 3200. RETIREMENT BOARD
(a) The general administration and responsibility for the proper operation of the benefit and support system funds and for making effective the related provisions of this chapter are hereby vested in the board of trustees of the Vermont municipal employees’ benefit system established in section 5062 of Title 24, known as the retirement board.
(b) All trustees shall be entitled to the necessary expenses, including traveling expenses, incurred in the discharge of their duties. All trustees shall be entitled to receive a per diem as provided in 32 V.S.A. § 1010 except a trustee who is a state or municipal employee; provided that a trustee who is a municipal employee shall be entitled to the per diem when the trustee’s compensation from the municipality is reduced as the result of the performance of his or her official duties, or the trustee’s official duties are performed on his or her personal time. Compensation or reimbursements under this subsection shall be from the funds of the benefit system.
(c) Subject to the limitations of this chapter, the retirement board shall, from time to time, establish rules and regulations for the administration of the funds of the support system and for the transaction of its business.
(d) The retirement board shall engage such medical, actuarial, and other services as shall be required to transact the business of the support system. The compensation of all persons engaged by the retirement board and all other expenses of the board necessary for the operation of the support system shall be paid at such rates and in such amounts as the board shall approve.
(e) The retirement board shall keep in convenient form such data as shall be necessary for actuarial valuation of the funds of the support system, and for checking the experience of the system.
(f) The retirement board shall keep a record of all its proceedings which shall be open to public inspection. It shall publish annually a report showing the fiscal transactions of the support system for the preceding fiscal year, the amount of the accumulated cash and securities of the system, and the last balance sheet showing the financial condition of the support system by means of an actuarial valuation of the assets and liabilities of the system.
(g) The retirement board shall designate from time to time a depository for the securities and evidences of indebtedness held in the various funds of the system and may contract for the safekeeping of securities and evidences of indebtedness within and without the state of Vermont in such banks, trust companies, and safe-deposit facilities as it shall from time to time determine. The necessary and incidental expenses of such safekeeping and for service rendered, including advisory services in investment matters, shall be paid from the operation expenses of the system as hereinafter provided. Any agreement for the safekeeping of securities or evidences of indebtedness shall provide for the access to such securities and evidences of indebtedness, except securities loaned pursuant to a securities lending agreement as authorized by subsection (h) of this section, at any time by the custodian or any authorized agent of the state for audit or other purposes.
(h) The retirement board may authorize the loan of its securities pursuant to securities lending agreements that provide for collateral consisting of cash or securities issued or guaranteed by the United States government or its agencies equal to 100 percent or more of the market value of the loaned securities. Cash collateral may be invested by the lending institution in funds approved by the state treasurer. Approval of funds shall be made in accordance with the standard of care established by the prudent investor rule under chapter 147 of Title 7.
(i) The board shall regularly provide information to members on the status of their retirement accounts. Members shall have reasonable access to information relating to the balance in their retirement accounts.
§ 3201. FIRE SERVICES AND EMERGENCY RESPONDER FUND
The fire services and emergency responder fund finance committee is established which shall consist of the governor or designee, the lieutenant governor or designee, the state treasurer or designee, the commissioner of the department of banking, insurance, securities, and health care administration or designee, the chairperson of the joint fiscal committee, a representative of the Vermont State Firefighters Association, and a representative of the Vermont Ambulance Association. The committee shall meet annually to determine the sum to be raised by the fractional surcharge pursuant to section 3866a of Title 8 necessary to support the firefighter and emergency responder retirement benefit special fund, the firefighter survivor benefit trust fund, and the statewide fire department safety and equipment grant special fund established by this chapter.
§ 3202. FIREFIGHTER AND EMERGENCY RESPONDER RETIREMENT
BENEFIT SPECIAL FUND
The firefighter and emergency responder retirement benefit special fund is established. The fund shall be a special fund created under subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32 and be administered by the retirement board established pursuant to chapter 125 of Title 24. The fund shall consist of all monies authorized by the fund finance committee pursuant to this chapter and any other monies appropriated to the fund by the general assembly. Interest earned by the fund shall remain in the fund. Any sums which are appropriated or earned in any given year and not credited to individual responder’s retirement accounts shall be transferred to the fire department safety and equipment grant special fund.
§ 3203. FIRE DEPARTMENT SAFETY AND EQUIPMENT GRANT
The fire department safety and equipment grant fund is established which shall be a special fund created under subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32 to be administered by a disbursement committee. Interest earned on the fund shall be retained in the fund. The disbursement committee shall consist of five members: the state treasurer or designee, two members appointed by the Vermont State Firefighters Association, one member appointed by the Vermont Fire Chiefs Association, and one member appointed by the Vermont Career Chiefs Association. All monies in this fund shall be disbursed annually.
Sec. 2. 20 V.S.A. § 3176 is added to read:
§ 3176. FIREFIGHTER AND EMERGENCY RESPONDER TERM LIFE
INSURANCE BENEFIT SPECIAL FUND
The firefighter and emergency responder term life insurance benefit special fund is established which shall be a special fund created under subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32 to be administered by the firefighters’ and emergency responders’ survivors benefit review board established by this chapter to provide term life insurance benefits for members. The fund shall comprise monies allocated by the fund finance committee pursuant to chapter 182 of this title, appropriations made by the general assembly, and contributions or donations from any other source.
Sec. 3. 8 V.S.A. § 3866a is added to read:
§ 3866a. FIREFIGHTER AND EMERGENCY RESPONDER SUPPORT
The sum determined by the fire and emergency response services fund finance committee established by 20 V.S.A. § 3190 shall be imposed as a Vermont firefighters’ and emergency responders’ support surcharge on persons purchasing fire, homeowners multiple peril, allied lines, farmowners multiple peril, commercial multiple peril (fire and allied lines), private passenger auto physical damage, and commercial auto physical damage policies on property and situated within the state of Vermont. Insurers shall include the surcharge as a separate, clearly marked item on the bill. Captive and surplus line companies shall be excluded from the effect of this section. The sum shall be allocated as follows:
(1) Eighty percent shall be paid to the firefighter and emergency responder retirement benefit special fund established pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 3202;
(2) Sixteen percent shall be paid to the fire department safety and equipment grant special fund established pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 3203;
(3) An amount not less than $100,000.00 shall be paid to the firefighter and emergency responder term life insurance benefit special fund established pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 3176;
(4) An amount not less than $50,000.00 shall be paid to the firefighters’ survivors benefit expendable trust fund established pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 3175; and
(5) An amount not to exceed $150,000.00 shall be paid to the board of review and appeals special fund for administration established pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 3197(d).
The Vermont General Assembly
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