Lawmakers continued discussions on possible funding for Volunteer Fire Departments and EMS units during interim meetings Sunday afternoon in Huntington.
The conversation centered around House Bill 3153, which failed in the final hours of the 2023 Regular Session. The bill would have split $12 million between the state’s fire departments and emergency medical services.
Much of the debate on the bill centered on whether to provide funding by way of an increase to the surcharge on insurance premiums, which would ensure the funding in perpetuity, or through a one-time allotment of surplus lottery money.
Lawmakers sounded optimistic Sunday that they may be nearing a compromise. Delegate Mike Honaker (R-Greenbrier, 46), an emergency management professional himself, informed the committee that they currently have a working compromise bill that they believe can be passed in a special session.
Also on Sunday, members heard from Kari Mika-Lude, PhD, on the topic of mental health wellness for first responders. This included a deep dive on the pressures and stressors first responders face and the difficulty they often have in getting the timely mental health services that they need.
Lawmakers discussed a possible comprehensive first responder wellness plan to consider during the next regular session.