SCALERA & PRIETO BILL TO ENCOURAGE VOLUNTEERISM SIGNED INTO LAW

(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblymen Fred Scalera and Vincent Prieto sponsored to permit fire company, ambulance, first aid, hazardous materials or rescue squad volunteers to serve as elected officials was signed into law Friday by acting Gov. Stephen Sweeney.

“Considering the tough economic times for communities across our state, we should be encouraging people to volunteer for these important roles, not limiting their ability to do so,” said Scalera (D-Essex/Bergen/Passaic), a career firefighter and former deputy fire chief. “Punishing those seeking to give back to their community by prohibiting them from running for public office did nothing to promote volunteerism. We’ve changed that today.”

“Volunteer emergency response companies provide a vital public service by augmenting, and in some situations, replacing paid fire and ambulance companies,” said Prieto (D-Hudson). “Volunteers serve without pay and help reduce the burden of public employee benefits and salary on the local property taxpayer, so anything to promote that is a good thing.”

Under the law (A-4338), fire company, ambulance, first aid, hazardous materials or rescue squad volunteers can also serve as an elected official on the governing body of the municipal government wherein the emergency services are provided. The law only applies to those volunteers serving as elected officials in the municipal government, and does not include service in a fire district or other local unit.

The law requires the volunteer recuse himself or herself from any vote that concerns the emergency services provider of which he or she is a member.

The bill passed the Assembly 76-0 and the Senate 37-0.

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