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Connors/Rumpf/Gove Legislation Would Clarify Intent of Emergency Volunteer Personnel Tuition Credit Program

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Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have introduced legislation (S-3131/A-4354) to clarify the original intent of the Legislature by closing a loophole used by certain county colleges to deny volunteer emergency personnel tuition assistance under the state’s volunteer tuition credit program.

The volunteer tuition credit program provides a tuition credit benefit of up to $2,400 over four years to active members of a volunteer fire company or volunteer first aid or rescue squad or association and the dependent children and spouse of such members.

“Evidently, some county colleges are interpreting the word ‘transcript’ under the existing law to deny volunteer personnel reimbursement for non-credit courses,” said Senator Connors. “As soon as our Delegation learned of this, we went to work on drafting legislation that would clarify the original intent of the Legislature regarding this program. Beyond just the invaluable services these individuals perform on their own time, volunteer emergency personnel help control local property taxes by being unpaid. Allowing these individuals to continue to be denied a benefit that they are entitled to, in any circumstance, is not only disrespectful but undermines an effective recruiting and retaining tool used by fire companies and first aid squads.”

Under the program, eligible members may enroll in a postsecondary program at a county college, county vocational school or county technical institute, provided that available classroom space permits and that tuition paying students constitute the minimum number required for the course.

“Over the past decade, our country has come to recognize just how critical the services provided by volunteer emergency personnel are to our communities at both the national and local level,” said Assemblyman Rumpf, a member of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “In creating this program, the Legislature intended to demonstrate the gratitude of the people to volunteer emergency personnel for their selfless dedication with the understanding that their volunteer service also benefited taxpayers directly. Prohibiting colleges from excluding non-credit courses from being covered under this program would send a strong message to existing personnel and those considering donating their time that their efforts are truly appreciated and the state intends to keep its word.”

Assemblywoman Gove went on to add, “The objective here is to remove any ambiguity that would somehow allow county colleges to interpret the law as permitting them to deny volunteer emergency personnel access to certain courses. One could not blame volunteers from being angered at the limitations that are being applied to the program, given the time they dedicate to the public’s safety and welfare. The corrective language, offered through legislation, would comprehensively address this situation for volunteers and county colleges.”

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The 9th District Team

Chris Connors

Senator - District 9

Brian Rumpf

Assemblyman - District 9

DiAnne Gove

Assemblywoman - District 9

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