HB 131 (Cherry), HB 854 (Reid), and SB 585 (Reeves), as originally written would have added 911 dispatchers to the list of local employees eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service. Under current law, local governments may provide such benefits to first responders, including firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and certain other hazardous duty positions. The bills would combine full-time salaried firefighters, full-time salaried emergency medical technicians, and full-time dispatchers for a public safety answering point as defined in §56-484.12 into a new definition of “first responder.” By combining these positions into one definition, it would require employers that are electing enhanced hazardous duty benefits going forward to elect them for all of these positions or none of them.
Though not opposed to the intent of the legislation, VACo expressed concerns to the patrons and worked with them to provide language that would preserve the local option to offer these benefits and decouple 911 dispatchers from the other first responder employee categories. This would preserve maximum local flexibility while still allowing local governments to offer these benefits if they so choose. VACo is grateful for the work of the patrons and their responsiveness to our concerns.
HB 131 and HB 854 were heard by the House Appropriations Committee’s Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee on February 2 and by a 5-2 vote recommended laying the bills on the table referring them to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), which will be conducting a two-year study of state and local hazardous duty benefits, examining whether benefits should be increased and if additional categories of employees should be added to both state and local hazardous duty categories. SB 585 was heard by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on February 9, which voted unanimously 15-0 to carry the bill over to 2023 and also refer the bill to JLARC.
Two other bills would have added categories of employees to those eligible to be provided enhanced retirement benefits. HB 56 (Wiley) as originally written would have required local governments to provide enhanced retirement benefits to Juvenile Detention Specialists. HB 162 (Runion) would have added animal control officers to the list of employees that local governments may provide enhanced retirement benefits for hazardous duty service. Both bills were recommended to be lain on the table by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Compensation and Retirement on January 27 by a unanimous vote of 7-0.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett