Nov. 03, 2022
– Two bills sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) that aim to improve public safety in the Commonwealth have been signed into law.
House Bill 397
, now Act 104 of 2022
, will provide much-needed help to the state’s emergency response agencies, while House Bill 1988
, now Act 121 of 2022
, will help Mansfield University and others in the state system more efficiently hire campus security officers.
“Protecting public safety is a core function of government at all levels, and I’m pleased to see each of these measures signed into law to help us better meet that responsibility,” Owlett said. “I am grateful to the men and women who have chosen to serve as law enforcement officers and emergency responders, as they truly help keep our communities safe.”
To help fire and ambulance companies with the recruitment and retention of personnel, Act104 provides funding for tuition and loan assistance for higher education as an incentive to students who volunteer for fire and EMS services. It also allocates $1 million to fund scholarships for EMS providers who successfully complete approved training to make that training more affordable to build the EMS workforce.
The law also dedicates funding to helping the organizations meet growing financial demands, including $1.5 million in additional funding for EMS companies through the annual Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program; $500,000 for a grant program to support capital improvements to first responder emergency services training facilities; $500,000 for a municipal fire department capital grant program to build, renovate or otherwise modernize facilities, and purchase or repair equipment; and $250,000 for the current firefighter online training program.
It would also provide $500,000 to bomb squads for the safe removal, transportation, storage and destruction of confiscated fireworks; and dedicate $250,000 for a public service campaign on the safe operation of fireworks. Finally, the bill would ensure fire and/or EMS companies that have consolidated will continue for a period of 20 years to receive the same level of grant funding they would have had they not merged.
To help boost security at State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities, Act 121 places campus police departments and campus police officers at PASSHE schools under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers’ Education Training and Commission (MPOETC) for police certification, commission and training. The change would allow a campus officer to be immediately employed by a state system campus police force rather than having to go through a potentially months-long process of obtaining a commission from the governor via the state Department of Education.
Officers who complete MPOETC training can be immediately employed by municipal police departments and state-related university campuses; only those who wish to work on state system campuses are required to go through the extra step of obtaining a commission from the state. This has left state system campuses at a disadvantage when recruiting officers.