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December 13, 2018
2016 Leg Session Final
Apr 13, 2017
~~Brothers and Sisters,  As the 2017 Legislative session comes to an end, I want to first say thanks for all the help and support you have given me and the Legislative Team. It is an honor to serve you at the State House. I also want to congratulate all of you that help make our PAC one of the best in the State.
2016 Leg. Agenda
Jan 14, 2016
Brothers and Sisters, I walked into the Capitol this morning getting ready for another session with the Idaho Legislature. Like years past, my goal and that of our Legislative Team is to make sure our Collective Bargaining and PERSI remain untouched. We have built some solid relationships over the past few years and I remain confident that those two items will not be an issue this session.
Leg Update 12/10/15
Dec 10, 2015
Brothers and sisters I want to wish you all a happy holiday season! I hope this finds you all in good health. It has been a busy few months on the legislative front and I wanted to keep everyone up to date on what's been going on. First off, we did really well in our local elections last month that involved city council and fire districts.
2014 Leg. Wrap-Up
Mar 26, 2014
Brothers and Sisters, As session wrapped up this week I have a ton of mixed emotion. Two months ago I started thinking how I was going to write an email explaining that we finally got Presumptive Illness passed. When the Bill sailed through the Senate, I, Grant, and Shaun counted the votes and we had enough in the House to get the Bill to the Governor’s desk.
Update 2/12/14
Feb 12, 2014
Brothers and Sisters, As we come to the start of a new month at the Idaho Legislature, I wanted to send you all a quick update. First of all, last Friday we had our first hearing on our Cancer Bill. We passed the first test. We hope to have our next hearing sometime in the next two weeks. I have been working with the IAFF to get a Doctor from Johns Hopkins to testify at the next hearing.
Update
Jan 31, 2014
Quick legislative update, 1. Good news is our Cancer Bill is out of legislative services and ready for me to pick up tomorrow. It will start in the Senate and we have really good support. I am going to guess that it will be in committee next week. 2. Bad news! I attached a Bill that Steve Harris from Meridian is running. Please look it over.
Download: RCB072.pdf[1].pdf

Update
Dec 26, 2013
Brothers and Sisters, I wanted to send out a quick email before the 2014 Legislative session started. My self and Grant have been meeting on a weekly basis with members of the House and Senate as well as attending Legislative functions and lobbying them for our "Firefighter Cancer Bill" It has been awesome.
Year end leg. update
Apr 03, 2013
Brothers and Sisters, As this Session comes to a close, I think there were some definite highs and lows. It was great to spend as much time down at the State House this year as I did. Over the last few years I was only down once or twice a week. This year far exceeded that.
Presumptive Leg. Update
Mar 19, 2013
Subject: Legislative update OK, I wanted to again thank all  the Brothers and Sisters for their support at convention raising some much needed PAC funding. As session is coming to a close, we have been freaking hosed by a Chairman that wont hear our Bill. Props to Grant and Shaun that have put in a ton of time working both sides to get a vote.
April, 4th 2012
Apr 06, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

The 2012 Idaho legislative session ended last Thursday evening. When it did, the chances of passing our presumptive illness legislation ended also. As frustrating as this is we need to consider what we did accomplish.

When we began the session, our highest priority was to prevent the collective bargaining legislation from passing. We thought that it would consume most or our time and effort for the session. We were fortunate that the bill was derailed early, giving us the opportunity to pursue our other priority – presumptive illness legislation. 

This is an issue we have been working on for over ten years as an organization. In 2002 our first proposed legislation received a hearing in the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee where it was beat up severely before being shot down in a lopsided vote. Our next attempt wasn’t until 2007, where we couldn’t even get it printed. Over the course of the next 5 years, we continued to try to get the bill off the ground but were only successful in even getting it printed once (2009), but failed to get a full committee hearing. All along, however, we have been building the foundation for its success.

This issue is a complex one that cannot be explained in a 30 second sound bite. It requires time to explain the nuances of the concept and answer the countless questions that skeptics generate. Laying this groundwork over the years made it possible to even attempt running this legislation again. What really made this difference for us, however, was the work we did in the last interim (the time between the end of the 2011 session and the beginning of the 2012 session) to prepare for the collective bargaining fight. All of the positive media and political work put us in an excellent position not only to fight for collective bargaining, but also to run this or any legislation we had chosen.   

Going into the session the work we did in the interim helped to develop relationships with numerous legislators that we could never have predicted would pay off the way they did. Our sponsors were about the best a person could chose - both Representative Cliff Bayer and Senator Curt McKenzie are smart and articulate legislators who are respected on both sides of the legislature. We also had key allies working behind the scenes to assist us. Even those that weren’t actively supporting us looked upon us favorably because of our positive media messaging and political work. I’m proud of the work our membership has done. Our success is a direct result of so many of you stepping up to help the cause. 

That work centers around messaging (to the public and to policy makers) who we are and what we’re about. Although it is contrary to our nature, we can’t sit back and just say “aw shucks, I was just doing my job” when we have something we can proudly show to the public/to be proud of/brag about. We all have remarkable stories about the work we do and the kind of people we attract to this job. We should be willing to share this with the public and with elected officials, because eventually there will be some negative stories about us. If we wait until then to show people what we’re about, we will be digging ourselves out of a hole. Media experts say it takes about ten positive stories to counter one negative story. We stockpiled quite a few in this last year. Thankfully we didn’t really see any major negative stories. But I digress…

This year’s presumptive illness legislation (S1336) got further than we’ve ever gotten before. Our bill had no opposition in the Senate State Affairs committee and passed with a very comfortable margin through the Senate body (23-10-2). It transmitted to the House where it was referred to the House State Affairs Committee - a committee we were confident was our best choice. By our count we had all but about 4 of the 19 committee members with us on the vote. Unfortunately, we did not have the committee chairman. Committee chairman wield great power in the legislature. They have the ability to decide at their whim whether or not a bill assigned to their committee gets a hearing. By not giving a hearing, or “putting the bill in the drawer”, they can effectively unilaterally kill a bill. This was what happened to our bill. 

Our sponsor worked every angle he knew to leverage the chairman while we worked the angles we had available to us. Had we gotten a hearing, I have no doubt it would have passed out of the committee. From there it wasn’t as clear how the House body would vote, but with the supporters we had on board, I believe we had a good shot at getting through the House. We did have a complication in that we needed to amend the bill a second time in the House to fix a typo we found after passing the Senate and to specify which version of NFPA 1582 we wanted to mandate for pre-employment physical exams. Even so, had the bill gotten a hearing in a timely manner it could have been accomplished. 

Again, it is frustrating to get so close and come away empty handed, but we need to realize what we’ve done this year. Our goal was to keep collective bargaining and continue to continue to move presumptive illness down the road. To have succeeded with the first and gotten the second through half of the legislature is significant. We should be well positioned for these same goals next year even with a legislature that may lose up to 40% of its current membership. 

Our focus now must be on just that - next session. The success we had this year is because of you. The success we have next year will also be because of you. We need to continue the work we did last interim regarding media and politics. I am certain that we have not seen the last of the collective bargaining attacks. We need to be driven by the same motivation we had last year when we knew an anti-collective bargaining bill was coming. Please continue to proactively engage the media to get our good stories out there. Also, meet with your legislators and other key local leaders. This is an election year, so we’ll need help electing those candidates that will be supportive of what we want to do. If there’s a key election in your area we will advise you and ask for your assistance in passing out literature, knocking on doors, or pounding signs. We also need everyone to vote, both in the primary and the general elections. 

Thank you again to all of you who have done so much for the membership. To all of you and those who are yet to give, keep up the good work and press on! We have great challenges facing us, but I think our greatest time is still ahead. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com

 


March 18, 2012
Mar 19, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

The end of the session is rapidly approaching. The word at the Capitol is that they are trying to finish up by next Friday, March 23rd.   This does not bode well for our presumptive legislation. We were trying to get a hearing last Friday (the 16th) but the Chairman scheduled us for this coming Wednesday. This only gives us two days to get through the process if they finish on time. 

To further complicate matters, we have to amend the bill again. There are two issues that need to be fixed. The first is completely my fault for not reviewing our draft more closely. Our bill currently refers to a pre-employment screening as defined in NFPA 1582. The problem is that the bill drafter showed NFPA as being the “National Fire Protection Act”, not the “National Fire Protection Association”. With all of the scrutiny of the language regarding presumption, I never noticed this detail until after we passed the Senate. This could have been fixed as a typo by Senate or House procedural rules had we not had the second issue. 

The second issue is that we did not specify a particular version (2003, 2007, etc.) of the standard. The legislature is very sensitive to having state law upgraded by the change of a standard, a regulation, or a policy that is controlled by another entity. Had we not specified what version of the standard it would have defaulted to the most current one.   Consequently, every time NFPA upgraded 1582, state law would in effect be changed. The problem with this is that NFPA could dictate a new standard that costs more money or conflicts with other state code without the approval of our state policy makers. Obviously our lawmakers want to be the ones to decide such things. We will be using the 2007 version of this standard for our amendment. 

On a bright note, it looks like we have good support in the House. I’m pretty sure we can get through committee and we are gaining more co-sponsors that will help us when we reach the House floor. We will continue to work hard on this issue up until the gavel is dropped for the final time. There is a chance the session will extend beyond this coming week which may give us the time we need to complete the process. I will update you as it progresses.

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com

 

 

 


Presumptive Passes Senate
Mar 13, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

Our presumptive illness legislation passed the Senate this morning! After nearly an hour debate on the floor the bill passed with 23 ayes, 10 nays, and 2 absent. We now move to the House where we have to go through the whole process again. Time is very short, so we will have to work quickly to gain the support of a majority of the House members. I will keep you posted as it progresses. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com


March 11th, 2012
Mar 12, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

I reported in my last update that our presumptive illness bill was going to be amended and that this would only delay it by a day or so. We were actually on the reading calendar to be debated on the Senate floor on Tuesday (i.e. no delay), but they held off because our sponsors were not quite ready. We were up again on Wednesday, but our main sponsor, Curt McKenzie, had a court appearance that he could not miss and therefore was not in attendance to present the bill. We could have gone Thursday, but a key supporter was out of town that we felt we needed to be present to assist with the floor debate. He is not back until tomorrow (Monday), so that is when the bill will be debated. 

In speaking with the sponsors, they felt like waiting was the right thing to do so that we had the best chance of getting past the Senate. There should still be enough time to get through the House but we can’t afford too many delays on that side.

We’ve spoken to every Senator about this bill and have a decent head count of our votes. We feel good about the numbers but there were enough uncommitted that I worry about the outcome. A lot will depend on the floor debate and how vigorously our opponents argue against the legislation. We have two very good sponsors in Senator McKenzie and Senator Toryanski who should do a fine job articulating our arguments. At this point there is not much left to do but cross our fingers and trust that they will prevail on our behalf.

Regarding other legislative issues –

Collective bargaining is still sitting in a drawer where it will not be heard this session. I think we can breathe a collective sigh of relief for now, but realize that it will probably be something that we need to fight off for the foreseeable future.

There have been several minor bills regarding PERSI (mostly housekeeping legislation), but none that impact the system or benefit structure at all. Again, we can breathe easy for now, but we’ll be fighting this battle in the years to come. 

There are several bills that could impact fire district and fire department revenues. The Idaho Fire Chiefs’ Association and the Idaho State Fire Commissioners Association are following these closely to see what kind of impact they could have. We will follow these also. 

The texting while driving bill had an exemption for emergency responders, but we supported the change to remove that exemption. That change was made and the bill is on the House 3rd reading calendar. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com

 

 


March 3rd, 2012
Mar 06, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

This week we held our 31st annual convention and it was one of our best yet from a legislative perspective. I believe attendance for the convention was at an all time high and the attendance for the day on the hill was clearly one of our best ever. Besides that, it was one of the best in regard to our members engaging legislators. Every year I see a better effort by our members at approaching legislators, articulating our messages, and representing our organization in a positive light. 

I am very proud of all of you that participated. You should be proud of yourselves too. The work you do on this day and the work you do in your home districts with legislators has made a real difference in advancing our legislative agenda. Your conduct at the Capitol spoke to what a professional organization we are.  Thank you. I also want to thank sister Baron for her hard work at putting together the pamphlets on presumptive illness for us. This literature was an incredibly professional and informative tool for us. Great work, Wendy!

I feel confident to say that the collective bargaining bill is dead for the year. Senator McKenzie has no desire to hear the bill and is not getting pressure from any direction.  Congratulations and thank you again for your important work that helped make this happen.

Regarding presumptive illness legislation - on Thursday morning I received a message from the insurance lobby with a proposed compromise on the bill. The compromise makes a minor tweak to the standard of proof for the employer or surety, but still maintains the presumption for the claimant (the firefighter). Our attorney feels like this does not compromise what we are trying to do at all. Having agreed upon this compromise, we essentially eliminated any real opposition to the legislation. 

We had our committee hearing on Friday and there was no testimony against us. The hearing went very well. We had a doctor from Johns Hopkins testify to the medical research which demonstrates the relationship between firefighting and certain cancers. This was very compelling and made strong impression on the committee members. Another key presenter was Travis Woolford from Boise Local 149, a survivor of esophageal cancer who has returned to the line after a tough fight with the disease. Travis did an incredible job and clearly put a human face on this issue. Thanks Travis! Also testifying were Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan, our attorney Dick Owen, Dr. Paul Collins, and myself.  

Since we had agreed to an amendment to the printed bill, the committee voted to send it to the amending order instead of voting directly on the bill itself. Normally, this would not be the best route to take as it complicates the process for our legislation, but we feel confident that it will delay us no more than one day and the amendments will go through as proposed. The amendment for the bill will be considered by the entire Senate on Monday and the bill in its entirety will be considered on Wednesday or Thursday. We have a lot of Senators to reach before then, but we feel good about our chances. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com

 

 

 


February 19, 2012
Feb 23, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

We are at the 40th legislative day. For the average session this would be about the half way point. I have heard rumors that they are going to try to speed up the rest of the session and get out early. Again, this is good for collective bargaining but bad for presumptive illness. 

On our presumptive legislation, we have been working the past two weeks to shore up our counter arguments to the attacks of our opposition. One of the critical pieces of this issue is cost. Our best defense is that the National Council on Compensation Insurance estimates that our legislation (should it pass) would require a 2.3 to 7.8% increase in work comp premiums. For most jurisdictions this is an insignificant amount. We are working on getting the support of the Association of Idaho Cities as well as the Idaho State Fire Commissioners Association. Still waiting on both.

We are charging ahead nonetheless as time is of the essence. On Monday we have our print hearing in Senate State Affairs. Usually print hearings aren’t too contentious, but you never know what’s going to happen. Keep your fingers crossed. 

As mentioned, the short time frame makes collective bargaining look good. It hasn’t been a topic of discussion either in the media or at the Statehouse. I am feeling more and more confident every day.

There are also two other bills that we are watching. One would exempt elevators from having to be upgraded to meet code. The consequence of this is that elevators without fireman service could remain so until the end of time. For shorter buildings this isn’t a big deal since we probably wouldn’t be using them at a fire. As buildings get taller, however, this is an issue. It looks like the Fire Chiefs’ Association will be working on trying to amend this bill so that taller buildings would not be exempt.

The other bill we are watching would make it illegal to charge fees for emergency response to automobile accidents. Currently there are a number of departments that are charging fees. This has been a tool to recover some of the costs associated with these responses, specifically floor dry and its disposal. The chiefs are going to fight this one as well. 

Convention is just a week away and I look forward to seeing you all again.  Please contact me with any questions or comments.

 

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com

 

 

 


February 4th, 2012
Feb 05, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

We have completed the 26th day of the session. This means we are roughly one-third of the way through the session. This is both good and not-so-good for us. On the plus side, we are getting closer to the time when the collective bargaining bill is dead. On the negative side, we have a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time for presumptive illness legislation. 

There are deadlines that bills must meet to stay alive. The most significant is the bill introduction deadline which is next Monday, February 13th. The collective bargaining bill has already been introduced and presumptive has not. I’m not overly concerned about presumptive since we intend to print it in a “privileged committee” which is not subject to the deadline. The next deadline of concern (March 5th) is the transmittal deadline – the last day on which a bill may be sent from one chamber to the other. The closer we get to that day, the better I feel about collective bargaining. At the same time the more urgency I feel about presumptive. 

Regarding presumptive illness legislation, we have accomplished a lot.  We have two great co-sponsors (Representative Bayer and Senator McKenzie), we have several key allies that are critical to the bill’s success, and we have a finalized draft that will be turned into RS form (the first stage of a bill) this coming week. Before we have a print hearing we need to lobby the committee that will print it to make sure we have the votes to get it through. After the print hearing we’ll have a full hearing by the same committee and, if passed out of committee, will be sent to the floor to be heard by the entire House or Senate. Before it’s sent to the floor we have to lobby every member of that chamber to make sure we have those votes too so it can be transmitted and the process started all over in the opposite chamber. As you can see, even with much accomplished, there is much to do. Again, I feel optimistic about where we are and how things are going. 

There are several bills regarding PERSI, but it appears that they will have little or no impact on our members.  We will be evaluating these proposals with the PERC coalition to ensure there is nothing we need to worry about.  

There are a few other issues we are also watching and will update you as they develop. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

 Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com

 


January 29th, 2012
Jan 30, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

We continue to work on stopping the collective bargaining bill. Currently the bill is in the Senate State Affairs committee. This is a good committee for us as we have a number of key friends on this committee. At this point the bill is sitting in the chairman’s drawer. Our goal is to keep it there until the session ends. Again, independent actions by our members can impact the results we have at the Capitol. Please do not act (write emails, send letters to the editor, call legislators, etc.) unless we direct you to do so. Let’s keep our powder dry until it’s needed. I am cautiously optimistic that we will get through this session without this bill getting anywhere. 

I’ve heard some concerns from some or our members about PERSI. I realize that there has been some public discussion about changing our plan to a defined contribution plan. Fortunately, many legislators understand that PERSI is a phenomenal pension system and that dismantling it would have some serious impacts to the state. First, it would be very expensive to make the change as the state would have to continue to fund current members’ benefits and then find a way to fund the new system. This is not an easy task. Second, PERSI is an economic engine that pumps $500 million dollars into the state economy every year.  Changing to a DC plan would erase that impact as retirees would have less money to spend and would actually draw money from the state budget as many would need to be on government assistance in one form or another. 

We are still moving forward with presumptive illness legislation. We are in the process of refining our strategy with the sponsor and doing important leg work to make sure the bill moves through the process with the littlest amount of trouble. We do expect resistance from several groups, but we are also developing a good coalition to support the bill. We plan on introducing the bill soon. I will update you as things develop. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments .

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com


January 22nd, 2012
Jan 24, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

The first nine days of session came and went with relatively little activity we would be concerned with. Then came this Friday. I stated in a previous update that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Senator McKague run the same legislation that she ran last year. As you recall, she ran a bill that would not only repeal our bargaining rights, but would make it illegal for an employer (of any governmental employee) to bargain with their employees collectively. In other words, even if your city or fire district really likes you and would gladly bargain with you voluntarily, they would not be allowed to. Well, she got this bill printed as a “personal bill” on Friday. 

Although concerning, please do not hit the panic button. As a personal bill, it got printed with no vetting, meaning only one person had to be supportive of the idea – the sponsor. I’m sure there’s plenty of other legislators that would get behind this idea, but we also know of a good number (and some pretty influential ones) that are opposed to this legislation. I believe there is a good chance that the legislation could go away with little fanfare. We are working very hard on our end to see that this happens. If we cannot get it stopped quietly we will need a robust grassroots effort by all of you. Please do not take any action on your own in the meantime. Some actions taken independently and unilaterally could actually undermine the work we are doing at the Statehouse that remains unseen. Please be prepared to act when called upon, but wait until we contact you and give you specifics regarding what we need. Hopefully you will never receive our call. We should have a clear idea of what path we need to take by Wednesday.

On a more positive note, we continue to work on our presumptive illness legislation and are still making headway. There is not a lot to report, except that our focus now is to get the support of the Idaho Association of Cities. With the Idaho Fire Chiefs Association and several medical doctors behind us, we have the makings of a decent coalition to push this effort forward. Gaining the Cities’ and the Fire District Commissioner’s support would be a huge benefit. I’ll keep you posted as things develop. 

Other than this there are not a lot of other bills we are worried about. We are watching for some other legislation to come through, but overall, it has been fairly quiet. 

Please contact me with any Questions or comments. 

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com


January 10th, 2012
Jan 12, 2012

Brothers and Sisters,

The 2012 Legislative Session has begun. As I mentioned in my last email, the collective bargaining bill is a realistic threat and is our number one priority. Our goal is to keep it from ever getting off the ground or to kill it quickly and quietly if it does end up getting printed. I am really encouraged about our prospects. We have been meeting with numerous legislators over the past two months and have been working on this issue.   I am very encouraged by the discussions we’ve had with numerous legislators about this issue. I have not heard any solid leads on anyone intending to run the legislation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sen. McKague taking another shot at it. The Idaho Freedom Foundation has also put out a wish list of items it would like to see accomplished in the 2012 session. One of them is to continue the reforms of public sector unions. Do not hit the panic button, we are still well-positioned for this fight and may not even see it. We will not know however until several weeks to a month into the session what is in store. Stay tuned – If this issue does get off the ground, I will be calling on all of you to help in a grass roots campaign. 

We will also be closely watching PERSI as we know there are people out there who would like to change the current system. Again, no solid leads on anyone with legislation in the works. We’ll have to wait and see. 

Concurrent with our defensive efforts we intend to pursue an offensive agenda as well. This year we will be working more aggressively than we ever have before on presumptive illness legislation. We have been working on this bill for over ten years. In that time, we have been unable to make any significant progress but have worked diligently nonetheless. I believe that hard work is finally starting to pay off. 

In this interim (the time between legislative sessions), we ran our bill through the “Work Comp Advisory Board”. This is the first stop for any legislation regarding workers compensation. Any bill regarding work comp needs to be reviewed by this committee or it has no chance of passing. The committee makes recommendations to the legislature on a consensus basis. As the committee is made of players from all sides of the issue (employers, employees, insurance companies, lawyers for and against claimants, etc.) it is rare to get consensus on a piece of legislation. 

We have shopped this bill to the committee for several years now. At first we had difficulty getting the group to even give the issue a serious look. This year, however, with plenty of persistence and the help of expert testimony from a medical doctor provided by the IAFF, our issue was assigned to a subcommittee to evaluate and provide recommendation to the greater committee. After six months of going back and forth, negotiating details of the legislation, the subcommittee decided it was split and could not make a recommendation one way or the other. Even so, the subcommittee provided a great critique of the bill with no consequence. We’re grateful that the bill could go through this “trial by fire” before being evaluated by the legislature – better to have arrows shot at us now and figure out how to combat them than in front of a legislative committee that can kill it for the year. With no recommendation from the subcommittee the greater committee abstained from making a recommendation also. We consider this the best case scenario from this committee. 

We have two excellent sponsors for the bill and several other key allies. We have a pretty good strategy for moving this forward. It will still be an uphill battle, but I feel like we are moving the ball down the field. I will update you as we progress through the session. Again, I may be calling upon some of you to assist with this issue. Stay tuned. 

Please contact me with any questions or concerns.

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com


Nov. 16th, 2011
Nov 19, 2011

Brothers and Sisters,

The 2012 Legislative Session approaches quickly. Last session provided a glimpse of what we may expect this coming session. As many of you remember, a bill (SB 1142) was printed that would have made collective bargaining illegal. By illegal, I mean that employers would not be allowed to bargain collectively with employees even if they wanted to. Although SB 1124 quietly died last session, it laid the groundwork to run the same legislation next session. The PFFI lobbying team is confident the sponsors of SB 1124 will try to run it again. 

In response to this expectation we have been working diligently through the interim (the time between sessions). We developed a plan that would put us in the best possible position to fight this legislation this coming year. The plan involved an organizational component, a media component, and a political component. The organizational piece was all about getting the PFFI and our locals organized for the fight. This means identifying legislative and media liaisons within our organization, educating our members, and streamlining our communication process. The media piece was about strengthening and managing our brand as firefighters and as union members. We delivered training to all of the PFFI districts on how to work with the media and how to message to reinforce our brand. This training was fortified with follow up training at Fall Ed seminar including a fantastic presentation by John Kretzschmar on “framing” the union. The political piece was premised on building and strengthening strategic political relationships. Those relationships include legislators as well as local leaders.

I’m pleased to say that we’ve worked the plan fairly well to this point in time. The plan required a lot of leg work from the locals. Many of you may not have seen what has been happening because I put the burden on your local leaders. I asked them to work on getting your local organized for the fight, work pro-actively to get positive media coverage, and to meet with the legislators from your area. A good number of our locals have taken the task to heart and have done some great work. I think we’ve seen a noticeable uptick in positive local media coverage and, more importantly, we’ve created or strengthened a significant number of relationships with legislators.  These relationships are what will matter most if this fight comes to fruition. 

Another part of the plan that turned out very well was FireOps 101. We held it in Meridian in early October with four legislators, several local leaders, and a handful of media representatives. FireOps is one of the most valuable initiatives we do because it conveys our message like nothing else we can do. Those who attended have a new appreciation for what we do. This always helps with any issue we work on. 

So you may be asking “what can I do?” Currently there is not a lot of heavy lifting we need from the members, but there is some work you can do. As part of the media training we asked two things of your local leaders. One was to inform you (your local’s membership) of the potential fight we are facing. The second was to educate you on how to communicate. For our media efforts to work we need everyone communicating the same message to all audiences. Whether you like it or not, each one of you is a public relations representative for our organization. The audience you reach is whomever you come in contact with that recognizes you as a firefighter or union member. It may seem insignificant to worry about the random people we come across day to day, but with 1100 members we can reach a lot of people. If you add in family, friends, neighbors, etc. each one of us can affect the way many people view firefighters and the union. Remember that, as firefighters, we are very high profile – people are watching us all the time, even we don’t realize it. Every negative message requires 10 to 13 positive messages to undo the damage. As the PFFI and your local’s leaders work on reaching our audiences (the general public and the Legislature) we need you communicating the same message to the audiences you can reach so it is reinforced. 

We need you to continue being a good ambassador for the fire service and for the union. Anytime you can be identified as a firefighter or union member you should be thinking what kind of a message you are sending to those around you. Does the way I act, talk, dress, or treat people send a positive message that reinforces our brand or does it send a negative message that undermines our brand? Is there an opportunity to do some positive messaging? As a proactive approach you should try reaching those in your sphere of influence (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) with a positive message about firefighters, our union, and collective bargaining. 

Until the session starts this is what you should be doing. You can also be preparing to assist with the grassroots effort we will need if the collective bargaining bill gets any momentum. We may call upon you to contact your legislator, write a letter to the editor, show up to a committee hearing at the Capitol, or distribute literature after we see what the legislative session brings.

I’ve been told that some of our members believe all hope is lost and that we have no chance.   I want to encourage all of you to take heart. The work our local leaders and the lobbying team have done over this past 6 months is making a difference. We have reached out to a broad swath of legislators and it has definitely been noticed. The conversations we have had with these legislators give me a lot of encouragement. I believe there is a fair amount of support for our side of this issue within the legislature, especially with some key members. The wild card in this equation is how the bill will be introduced. Who sponsors it, which chamber they choose, what kind of publicity it gets, etc. can affect how much traction it gets. My goal is to keep it from ever getting off the ground.

Again, remember that there is a lot work going on behind the scenes. I feel good about that work and the impact it has already had. Keep your head up, be proud of the work you do and the union you belong to. 

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Fraternally,

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

pffimike@gmail.com

(208) 869-6469

 

 


Post convention/legislative message
Mar 11, 2011
Brothers and Sisters,
I want to thank all of you who attended convention this year. We had great participation, spirited debate, and a lot of valuable information shared. 
As would probably be expected there was much discussion about unions and efforts to undermine collective bargaining. All of you are probably aware of what is happening in Wisconsin. Some of you may not realize, however, that a bill (Senate Bill 1124) was printed this year to outlaw collective bargaining for public employees here in Idaho. This legislation wouldn’t just repeal our right to bargain with our employers, it would make it illegal to do so even if they were willing. SB 1124 was only printed and did not receive a committee hearing, effectively killing it for the year. Typically when this happens it is a sign that it will be considered more seriously the next year. 
There are some of you who see the seriousness of this and want to take action immediately. My message for you is to be patient and keep a cool head. The real fight may take place next year and we need to conserve our resources until then. There is plenty of work to be done in the meantime – focus your energy on this. 
On the other hand, there are some of you who may not realize the gravity of the threat that exists. I assure you that this is the biggest struggle we will face in generations. Collective bargaining is on the line and there will most certainly be a bill to try to take it away next session. We cannot afford to have anyone sitting on the sidelines hoping that someone else will take care of this for them. 
Rest assured that we have a plan to combat these attacks when they come. We have a whole year to prepare and execute this plan. The plan includes a media component, political component, and organization component. The plan calls for robust pre-emptive work to lay a solid foundation for when we have to really to go to battle. Your PFFI executive board will be working hard on our part of the plan, but we will need all of our locals and all of our members doing their part also. A lot of the work done by your PFFI leaders will be behind the scenes or preparation work. This will not be highly visible - do not take this to mean that we are not hard at work doing our part. Your part will be local media and community relations work that will be critical to our success. 
One of the keys to this plan is for all of us are to keep a cool head. We have vetted this plan extensively within the Executive Board and the Lobbying Team. We feel confident that our plan is a good one and that we will be successful. We are firefighters for a reason. When others are panicking and making poor decisions, we remain cool and solve problems. This situation is no different. Do not panic, stay calm, and be focused. 
We must also stay disciplined. Some of you may feel a sense of urgency or passion to engage in the battle and will want to do so on your own. Please follow the plan we have developed as an organization and trust that it will work. Understand that messaging is critical to our success and we must have a consistent, unified message that is well crafted. Messaging is difficult as we all-too-often say what makes us feel good and not what our audience needs to hear. Let your PFFI leaders establish message points and take on responding to our opponents. Be cautious about responding to letters to the editor from citizens. Usually these comments don’t sway anyone. If they upset you, it’s because they are filled with inflammatory rhetoric that doesn’t have a lot of influence.   If a more prominent editorial/opinion is run in your local paper, let your local leaders or the PFFI leadership craft a response. We will pass down talking points if you want to respond to these. 
I know this email is short on details. We will get details out through your PFFI district VP’s and reps and your local leaders. Please help out as specific action items are brought to your attention. 
Brothers and Sisters, we are in the midst of something greater than any of us would have dreamed we would be involved in. We have a good plan, though, and we will succeed. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me. 
Fraternally,
Mike Walker

Legislative update
Mar 04, 2011

Brothers and Sisters,

 

Many of you have contacted me and expressed concern over a bill that was printed in the Senate State Affairs committee last Friday.  The bill, SB 1124, would not only repeal collective bargaining rights for those that have it (teachers and firefighters), but would make it illegal for any public employer to voluntarily recognize and negotiate with a public employee union.  In other words, even if our cities and fire districts wanted to negotiate in good faith with us they would not be allowed to.

 

Obviously, this is a very concerning proposal.  Fortunately, the bill was printed but will not receive a committee hearing and is dead for the year.  The sponsor stated that she wanted it printed to start a discussion about it, but was not intending to run it this year.  This means it will most certainly be back next year and will probably be pursued in earnest.  The lobbying team is preparing to deal with this issue when it rises again.  At this time there is no reason to hit the panic button.  Please hold off on independently sending letters to the editor, contacting your legislator, etc.  When the time comes we want to have a coordinated effort with a consistent message.  We will let you know.

 

Regarding PERSI…We came into the year very concerned about the pension system.  We had heard rumblings that there may be legislation to change PERSI.  There was discussion about changing the plan from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, capping the employer’s cost, reducing the guaranteed COLA, and other ideas.  With deadlines approaching for introducing bills I feel confident that we probably won’t see any of those ideas introduced this year.  The healthy state of the fund also takes away some motivation to make any changes.  As of yesterday the funding ratio was at about 89%.  Even with the health of the fund, we are preparing for this type of legislation for next year. 

 

The other issue we thought we might be dealing with this year is EMS.  With the Office of Performance Evaluation (OPE) in hand, it seemed likely that the legislature would push forward with some kind of legislation.  A proposal has been drafted that looks very similar to the legislation that we saw last year.  It is encouraging to see that it looks very similar to the amended bill we agreed to support last year that died at the end of session.  I have gotten indications that the legislature may hold off on this legislation for the year.  I would still like the EMS convention committee to follow through on their assignment to evaluate the issue and make recommendations for our organization’s stance. 

 

I look forward to seeing you next week at convention.  Please contact me with any questions or concerns. 

 

Fraternally,

 

Mike Walker

Executive Vice President

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

pffimike@gmail.com

(208) 869-6469


Legislative Update - January 16, 2011
Jan 20, 2011
Brothers and Sisters,
 
The first week of the legislative session is completed. The goal we set for this week was to get a feel for the tone of the Legislature, start meeting the new legislators, and determine what kind of fallout there may be from the November elections. There are some things we know at this point, but it’s still too early to know entirely what we are in for. 
 
One thing is clear - there will definitely be fallout for some groups. Most notably will be the teachers. Superintendant of Public Instruction Tom Luna gave his plan for public schools for the coming year. His plan will have a pretty devastating effect on teachers. Besides increasing class size and laying off about 800 teachers statewide, their collective bargaining rights will be severely undermined. They will still have collective bargaining, but with the restrictions proposed, it will be inconsequential. This is a serious development and is concerning as the only other group in the state with this right. I have not heard of anyone looking to come after our bargaining rights, but an attack on the teachers’ rights should serve as a caution sign to us. There is some speculation that this is political retaliation for the teachers supporting the wrong candidates in last fall’s election. This makes me wonder if we backed enough of the “right” ones. 
 
Another certainty about this session is that there will be “discussion” about PERSI. We are fairly certain that there is a bill waiting to be printed that would adversely change the current benefit structure. As of the first week we have not seen or heard anything specific. The first week or two do not generate any real legislation, but are spent reviewing the administrative rules proposed from the various state departments. If we are going to see anything I would expect it in the next week or two. Obviously trying to ward off any attacks to our retirement will be a major focus of our lobbying efforts this year. 
 
Also from a defensive perspective, we are waiting to see how the EMS issue develops this session. Again, we haven’t seen anything as introduction of legislation hasn’t begun in earnest. We haven’t heard anything on this issue yet either. We have some feelers out with several key legislators to sense what direction the legislature wants to head with this. My hope is that there won’t be a rush to ram-rod something through in the wake of the OPE study, but that the legislature will methodically work through the OPE report to craft a bill that even-handedly meets its recommendations. We want to make sure that the recommendations from this report would not be overly tweaked when put into bill form and put our members’ departments at a disadvantage in determining their level of service.  We must stay vigilant to ensure this does not happen. Ideally we would not see legislation this year but we are prepared if it does. 
 
The sense I get of this session from discussions with legislators and other lobbyists is that this may be a good year to keep a low profile. The Legislature seems to be on the war path, making it wise to avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. In this sense it may be best for our presumptive illness legislation that we cannot run it this year. Because we will not conclude our work with the Work Comp Advisory Committee until later this spring, our bill won’t be run until next session. This is a bill that will definitely generate some controversy and draw attention toward us. Although we’ve been working for a long time on this, we need to be patient and expect it to take even longer. That being said, we have a lot of work to be done before our next meeting with this committee (in April) but I feel very confident in the progress we’ve made. 
 
Given the atmosphere at the legislature, we want to be cautious as we press forward with our other pieces of legislation. As you know we have been planning to run legislation that would require special placards to be placed on the exterior of commercial buildings that are built with truss assemblies. This was inspired by other states that passed similar legislation in the name of firefighter safety. With the few legislators I spoke to about this I received surprising push back. One of the things we have been hearing over and over at the statehouse is an anti-government/anti-regulation sentiment and this “sounds like regulation” to some. Our take is that this is minimal regulation with virtually no burden on business owners (there is no fees or costs associated with this). Even so, this will be in the fire code which has a strong distaste for much of the Legislature. 
 
The other piece of legislation is the bill to make the medical examination requirement for new hires meet the most current edition of NFPA 1582. As it reads now, the statute requires compliance with specific sections of the 1997 version of 1582. This may be our easiest sell in this environment. One vulnerability will be the unknown costs of medical exams in the future as the NFPA standard changes over time. This is a late addition to our agenda and is one we will probably work closely with the Idaho Fire Chiefs on.
 
Please contact me with any questions or comments. 
 
Fraternally,
 
Mike Walker
Executive Vice President
Professional Firefighters of Idaho
(208) 869-6469

Presumptive Illness Legislation
Jan 15, 2011

Brothers and Sisters,

    

I wanted to update you on our quest for presumptive illness legislation. As you may or may not know the PFFI has spent nearly a decade on updating our state laws regarding occupational illness and disease. For the last three years myself, Mike Walker, Grant Hamilton, and Ron Davies have spent countless hours and long meetings trying to make Idaho the 43rd state to give our Firefighters well defined laws regarding our health and safety. Our goal was to run legislation this year that was very similar to that of New Mexico.

 

Last fall the IAFF sent a Doctor out to help us testify at the Industrial Commissions, Work Comp Advisory Board. We had great success and our issue was sent to a subcommittee. Walker and I felt very confident going into the subcommittee hearing but were in essence ambushed by lawyers and lobbyists for the insurance industry. After over two hours of fighting back one attack after another, we felt fortunate that the group did not make an immediate decision regarding our proposal (it would have been against it). Instead they scheduled another subcommittee meeting to allow us to gather and present some information not available at that meeting.  We left very frustrated over the lack of respect for the health and safety of our firefighters, but regrouped and prepared for the next meeting which took place yesterday.  This time we were well equipped, having our attorney Richard Owen there in person and the Doctor and an expert in firefighter safety from the IAFF attending via conference call. Our meeting had a much better ending.

 

I don't feel that we are ever going to get a 100% buy off from the subcommittee or the Work Comp Advisory Board, if we leave there with some support and a neutral stance, I will feel very good. Walker and I are meeting with some key players of that board and we are going to tweak the current purposed drafts that we have. We feel that it was a small success in getting the group to agree to one more subcommittee meeting where we will present our updated draft which addresses many of the objections that were raised.  Unfortunately this delays pursuing this in the legislature until next year, but it provides us a much stronger foundation to work from when we run it next session.

 

The over all goal is not just to have a law that grants us presumption if one of us gets cancer or has a stroke. We are pushing the fact that this change in state law will build an overall healthier work force and lengthen the lives of our firefighters. This legislation is truly one that we all need and will benefit from.

 

Thanks,

Rob Shoplock



2011 Legislative Session and PERSI
Jan 15, 2011
Brothers and Sisters,
 
Today the 2011 Idaho State Legislative Session began. There are many important issues we will be working on this year but I’ve received a number of questions about PERSI and what will happen with it. As you have probably read in the papers there is one legislator that is looking at bringing forth a bill to try and change PERSI. We are working with the other associations involved in PERC to educate members of the legislature about PERSI, the current benefits, and the dangers of changing it. At this point we feel that the situation is serious, but there is no reason to hit the panic button.  Although we have been hearing about PERSI attacks for the past several weeks, I think we really need to get into the session a little deeper and see how much motivation there really is to go after our retirement.  
 
Even if a movement develops to do so, we feel that we have strong arguments against doing so. PERSI is one of the strongest retirement systems in the country. As of 1/3/2010 PERSI was 88.4 % funded and the amortization period is less than 15 years. Maintaining the current plan is good public policy and changing it will do little to nothing to improve the budget situation. Additionally, it would be expensive to convert over to a defined contribution plan. The following link will send you to a good video about the history of the fund and the current practices, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRFKj4uWPaE .
 
We will be keeping you up to date throughout the session on this and every other issue that affects firefighters. As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns. 
 
Thanks.
 
Mike Walker
Executive Vice President,
Professional Firefighters of Idaho
(208) 869-6469

2010 Election/2011 Legislative message
Dec 22, 2010

Brothers and Sisters,

The 2011 legislative session is nearly upon us and your lobbying team has been busy preparing for the coming battle.  The elections last month did not go as well for us as we could have hoped and will impact our legislative efforts.  Of our top 6 races only one went our way.  All of these were Democrats who fell prey to the red tide that swept the nation.  Fortunately, many of our Republican friends remain in office.  Even so, the makeup of this legislature will be considerably more conservative which does not bode well for many of our issues.  One issue in particular that we will need to watch is PERSI. 

With the state of the economy and a tea-party influence in the statehouse our retirement system could face a challenge.  We have been working within the PERC (Public Employees Retirement Coalition) group to proactively ward off any attacks.  We had heard rumors of such attacks, but no definitive accounts of anything specific until yesterday.  The Lewiston Tribune reported that House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts indicated changes to the system will “probably be work(ed) on”.  He specifically mentioned changing from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.  Other attacks could include a reduction to the COLA, an increase in our contribution rate, a decrease in the benefit, or an increase in the retirement age.  Utah has recently changed their system from one that was similar to ours to a “hybrid” system that includes both the defined benefit and the defined contribution plan and limits the contribution amount from the state. 

On a positive note, the PERSI board decided at their last meeting to forego the planned contribution increase slated to go into effect January 1.  This would have increased employers’ contributions into the plan by 1%.  Fortunately, the fund has recovered to the point that it is 87% funded and the amortization period is under 25 years.  When the amortization period is over 25 years state law requires a contribution increase.  Elimination of the planned contribution increase takes a little of the pressure off to make changes to the system, but it is clear we must remain vigilant on this issue.

Another issue we will again be working on this year is the EMS issue.  There have been two fronts on this issue over the past year – agency and personnel licensure rule-making and legislation.  As a member of the rule-writing committee, we helped guide the direction those rules went.  In the end the final draft of rules were pretty good but included certain aspects we were not comfortable with.  Along with a number of other organizations, we submitted our concerns during the comment period and those rules will not be adopted.  Work on cleaning up those rules may resume next year depending on what happens legislatively this session.

Regarding EMS legislation, we provided input for the study commissioned by the legislature to explore EMS in Idaho.  The Office of Performance Evaluation (a subdivision of Legislative Services) spent about 8 months gathering information about EMS in Idaho and comparing it to how EMS works around the country.  From this they determined some of the best practices and developed a list of recommendations for the Idaho Legislature.  They completed and submitted their report to the legislature on Nov 30.  At face value the report makes recommendations that we can live with as compared with the legislative proposals we have fought against in the past. 

There were two overarching conclusions of this study.  One, someone must be in charge, and two, all stakeholders should be included in a meaningful way.  This is a positive sign as our contention has always been that our local jurisdictions must have some say in how we run the service we provide.  These two general conclusions generated 7 specific recommendations on how to get there.  How these recommendations are formulated into legislation is really where it will be determined how this legislation affects the departments we serve.  None of the recommendations are of concern at face value, but we will need to see the details as the legislation is crafted.  These are the recommendations:

1) Designate local systems by county boundaries

2) Create a governance structure to oversee that system comprised of representation from all agencies in that system (paraphrased)

3) Increase the role of the Idaho EMS Bureau

4) Create local medical directorates

5) Consider reviewing the funding structure for local EMS systems

6) Require local systems to address funding in their comprehensive plan

7) Conduct a national Technical Assistance Team Reassessment

The Office of Performance Evaluation and the Chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee are in charge of the legislation at this point.  We are working with the Idaho Fire Chiefs Association and the Idaho State Fire Commissioners Association to ensure that as this legislative proposal develops our concerns are addressed.  To read the report in its entirety go to http://legislature.idaho.gov/ope/publications/reports/r1004.html . 

Proactively, there are two or three   bills we will work on this year.  The first is our perennial high priority – presumptive illness legislation.   We spent the summer working on a new bill with better language and presented that proposal to the Work Comp Advisory Committee this fall.  The Work Comp Advisory Committee is the first stop for any legislation involving workers compensation and usually needs this group’s blessing to effectively run a piece of legislation.  With the help of one of the doctors with the IAFF, we were able to very effectively deliver our message.  The committee decided to create a sub-committee tasked with reviewing the draft legislation and making a recommendation to the larger committee.  We met with the sub-committee last week and addressed many of the concerns of those on the sub-committee.    The meeting did not go as well as we had hoped as there were a number of concerns that the group brought up that we may not be able to compromise on.  We meet with this group again in mid-January to present more supporting material.  At this time the sub-committee will make its recommendation to the main committee.

In researching our presumptive bill we discovered that the current medical examination requirement mandated by state law for new hires is based on the 1997 version of NFPA 1582.  We’ve spoken to the Fire Chiefs about updating this to reflect any changes that have occurred to this standard in the past 14 years.  We would look to amend the language to read “the current version of NFPA 1582” so as to capture any subsequent changes.  As simple as this sounds it may be a difficult bill to get passed. 

The other bill we may pursue is a bill that would require businesses to post a placard on their building if it has a truss roof or floor.  This is modeled after laws passed in four other states and numerous municipalities.  The goal is to provide our members with a heads up when they respond to a fire in a building that has a truss floor or roof.  We all know the dangers of truss construction under fire conditions, but it’s difficult to always tell whether a building has truss in it or not when we arrive on scene.  If passed, this legislation would apply only to commercial occupancies and would be enforced at the discretion of the local fire department.  We have a sponsor for the bill and we’ve pitched it to the Chamber of Commerce and several other legislators.  The response I’ve gotten back has been luke-warm.  This too could be a tough sell. 

Please contact me with any questions or concerns.  Thank you.

Fraternally,

 

Mike Walker

Professional Firefighters of Idaho

Executive Vice President

(208) 869-6469

pffimike@gmail.com


2010 Final Legislative Update
Apr 05, 2010
Brothers and Sisters,
The 2010 Idaho State Legislative Session has come to a close. Overall, I would say it was a fairly successful year. Considering the economic climate, I feel fortunate that we didn’t sustain any significant blows to our retirement or to collective bargaining. I think the attempt to rescind the PERSI COLA this year is a harbinger of things to come next year though. I also think the discussion about the teacher’s collective bargaining and a bill that passed this year which weakens their bargaining rights warns us of potential attacks to ours next year. 
We also escaped the session without the EMS Code Task Force legislation being passed. As written, this bill would have severely limited our respective agencies abilities to make decisions regarding EMS service within our jurisdictions. We thought we had reached a compromise that we could live with which would have given every one of our agencies a voice on a governing board. That was rejected by the Idaho Association of Counties and was not considered by the Senate. 
Instead of giving the bill another hearing (with the amendment), Chairman Lodge decided to request that the Office of Performance Evaluation (OPE) study the issue to provide guidance for legislation for next year. Again, I am disappointed that the Senate Health and Welfare Committee didn’t just push forward with the issue since seven of eight stakeholder groups were behind a compromise amendment. I had worried that the study would be set up in such a way as to lead to a conclusion that would not favor us. As it turns out the specific questions being asked were developed by the EMS Bureau and appear to provide a fairly neutral scope to the study. After a hearing on which studies to undertake this year, the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee (JLOC) gave OPE the official marching orders to take on this study. I have never been a part of this process and have no idea what to expect. One thing I do know to expect is that this issue will be back next year. I will keep you updated as I learn more. 
On a positive note, HB 617 (the rescue bill) passed the Senate unanimously on the third to last day of session. I am not surprised as it made it out of Senate State Affairs, which is a committee comprised of all of leadership, unanimously the week before. After waiting patiently behind over 50 other bills, H 617 was heard Thursday, March 25th and received little debate before being unanimously accepted by the Senate. 
Our other objectives for the year did not pan out as we had hoped, but we will continue to work on them. The peer counseling legislation will be pursued through the Supreme Court committee on procedural rules. We will work on this in the interim. The funding for the Fallen Firefighter Foundation legislation does not look very optimistic at this point. It is clear that the tax check off is not an option as long as Rep. Lake is in office. We will look at other funding options for the future. We are starting to work more aggressively toward presumptive legislation for next year also. There will be a price tag to this legislation, so we’ll have to evaluate the economic climate into our plan. The economy was the major factor in not pursuing this legislation the past two years and could affect us next year.   
I want to thank all of you for taking an interest in what we do legislatively. I especially want to thank those of you who helped with our day on the hill and with the grassroots email and letter campaign. Your work helps immensely. I will need your help these next 7 months to further our political cause by helping in the upcoming election campaigns. Please consider giving 2 hours this spring and 2 hours this fall to help out on one of our legislative campaigns or one of your local election campaigns. Thanks again.
Fraternally,
Mike Walker
Professional Firefighters of Idaho
Executive Vice President
(208) 869-6469
 
 


SB 1391 Update
Mar 16, 2010
Brothers and Sisters,
As an update to the EMS issue, we have been meeting with all of the EMS stakeholders over the last few days to see if we could resolve our differences over SB1391. This was at the direction of the Senate Health and Welfare committee, whose message has been that if we cannot find a solution, they will. This is an ultimatum I don’t want to see played out as it is uncertain what they would deliver. The best case scenario would be SB1391 which is totally unacceptable as written.  Obviously, the choices get worse from there. 
I think we have been very successful in our meetings, having come up with a compromise that appears to be acceptable to all parties. The lawyer for the Idaho State Fire Commissioners Association, Bill Gigray, drafted a compromise proposal over the weekend based on our discussions at a meeting on Friday. We reviewed that proposal today and it appears to be one that we should be able to sign on to. The PFFI EMS committee will discuss the proposal tomorrow on a conference call to determine our support. 
In order to allow time for the negotiations over SB1391, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee will not hear the bill again on Tuesday (tomorrow) like I had said before. Instead the hearing will tentatively resume this Wednesday at 3:00 pm in the same committee room. Please plan on attending if you can.
Thanks. 
 
Mike Walker
Professional Firefighters of Idaho
Executive Vice President
(208) 869-6469
 
 
 
 




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