Members of the State Senate’s Rural Republican Caucus said they are pleased that Senate Democrats have reversed course and will now allow a vote on a bill providing much-needed funding to rural volunteer fire departments.
On Tuesday Senate Democrat leaders had indicated they would not allow the $9 million bill to come up for a vote unless their demands were met for additional changes to the proposal. SB 1190 passed the House of Representatives on a unanimous vote Tuesday.
But Senate Democrats quickly reversed course Wednesday morning after rural Republican senators called a morning press conference to demand an immediate vote on SB 1190.
“The heroes at our rural fire departments desperately need this money, and rural Republicans called our press conference today to ask the Senate leadership to bring up SB 1190 for an immediate vote. We are glad Senate Democrats have agreed to our request, and we will now be able to quickly get this money to our rural firefighters,” stated Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward, the chairman of the Senate Rural Republican Caucus.
“Senate Republicans have worked in a bipartisan way with Senate Democrats on this issue, but we became very, very concerned that Senate Democrats wanted to play politics with this bill. If Senate Democrats had followed through on their threat to hold SB 1190 hostage, it would have been an insult to every firefighter in this state. We are very pleased that Senate Democrats have reversed course and will now allow a vote on SB 1190,” Laughlin said.
The rural GOP senators pledged to work to get additional funding for rural fire departments – but said holding SB 1190 hostage is not the way to do it.
SB 1190 is a nearly $9 million package that nearly doubles the size of operational grants to rural fire departments to $5,000 per year, and includes funding to replace and repair broken-down equipment. Another provision provides money to the Department of Agriculture to increase the cap on reimbursements to rural fire departments from the department’s extraordinary fire cost recovery fund. The bill also provides a $5,000 death benefit to rural firefighters killed in the line of duty.