Firefighter health, rural broadband bills pass Senate


Staff Reports

A bill authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, that would improve Hoosier firefighters’ health and safety recently passed the Senate unanimously.

Senate Bill 258 would require the Board of Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education to establish best practices to improve safety and health outcomes for firefighters.

In recognition of the safer work environments created by adoption of the best practices, the bill also would authorize the Worker’s Compensation Rating Bureau to provide a premium or rate discount on worker’s compensation insurance to political subdivisions and volunteer fire departments that implement the best practices.

The legislation also authorizes the board of trustees of the Indiana Public Retirement System to discount payments to the 1977 Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Fund by political subdivisions that implement the best practices.

If enacted, the legislation also would create the Best Practices Fund for the purpose of providing matching grants to political subdivisions and volunteer fire department to purchase equipment and other gear so they may implement the best practices.

The Indiana Fire Chiefs Association, Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana and Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association all testified in support of the bill when it was heard in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation.

Senate Bill 411, authored by Koch, also recently was unanimously passed by the Senate.

The bill would initiate a study to determine if the state’s investor-owned utility companies could lease their excess broadband capacity to internet service providers in rural areas without internet access as well as under what conditions this would be possible.

This concept is an expansion of Senate Enrolled Act 478, also authored by Koch, which authorized Indiana’s rural electric membership cooperatives to use their existing electric easements and infrastructure to provide broadband internet service.

Since this was enacted in 2017, 10 of the 38 rural electric membership cooperatives in Indiana have begun to provide broadband internet service with 12 more to follow by 2025.

Next, both bills move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Koch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, serves Senate District 44, which includes all or parts of Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Lawrence and Monroe counties.

No posts to display