Committee: Legislative Committee

Contact: BJ Jungmann, Chair –  [email protected]

2019 Mission: The mission of the Legislative Committee is to provide focus, representation and visibility for the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association in legislative activities by advocating, supporting, sponsoring, opposing and actively participating in the legislative process involving those issues, areas or proposals as directed by the President of the Association.

2019 Committee Report: The 2019 legislative session was the first year of the biennium, which means that it was a budget year for the state. It also marked our first legislative session with our new lobbying firm from Lockridge Grindal Nauen (LGN). Working with LGN over the past year has been very productive and informative. We now have over ten lobbyists working on our behalf at the capitol. LGN has a wide net of relationships within the state government on both sides of the aisle and in many of the departments within the state. These relationships proved to pay dividends throughout the session to ensure that key decision makers were informed about our legislative initiatives.

We also continued our partnership with the Minnesota Fire Association Coalition (MFAC) which is comprised of our association, Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFDA), Minnesota Fire Marshals Association (FMAM) and the Minnesota Chapter of the International Arson Investigators Association (IAAI). This group hires our lobbyist together and we work off a single legislative agenda to provide a united front from the Minnesota Fire Service at the capitol. The MNFAC group meets bi-weekly throughout the legislative session to address any issues and discuss legislative strategy. Although we don’t represent the career firefighters from the Minnesota Professional Firefighters (MPFF), we do work very closely with their President Chris Parsons on the Fire Service Day at the Capitol and our legislative initiatives to ensure we are all working together to advance the Minnesota Fire Service at the capitol.

It took all of the regular session and a short special session to get the budget approved. Given the length of time it took to get a budget passed many other provisions were not addressed this year.

Our biggest accomplishment was the Fire Safety Account (FSA) funding which is a biannual issue that we work on. The FSA remained intact with 13 million dollars of funding per year for the next two years. As we know the FSA has had funds diverted in previous years to the general fund. Ensuring the funding in FSA remains intact is important as this is the primary funding source for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education and the State Regional Response Teams.

One big initiative that we will need your assistance to pass is the creation of Fire Protection District Authority. Unfortunately, the House Property Tax sub-committee did not pass this bill out of committee. Getting a hearing in the house was forward movement as in previous years we did not even get a hearing in the house. However, the Senate did hear this bill and included our proposal in the Senate Tax bill. Due to opposition from the House this bill was removed during conference committee negotiations between the house and senate. The framework proposed to allow Fire Protection Districts is important to the future of the Minnesota Fire Service giving departments another option for collaboration, equity between communities, staffing, equipment, transparency in budgeting and sustainable funding through collaboration. This initiative would allow two or more local units of government to create a fire district with its own taxing authority. This would be similar to how school districts operate with their own tax levy and ability to bond. Forty-two states already have enabling legislation and operate departments very successful under this model. We have a number of departments in our state interested in this initiative, but it will take everyone’s assistance to be successful as the current House Property Tax Sub-committee has reservation about allowing another special taxing district.

Without our proposed statewide framework, it is likely that each of the individual departments interested in fire districts will then need to pursue special legislation in order to get their taxing authority set up. Currently most collaborative departments are set up through joint powers agreements/agencies which is not as stable of governance and funding as a fire protection district. In addition, there have been concerns from some local governments about the current process of contracting for service and the sustainability of the current options for providing sustainable fire protection services. Given the makeup of Minnesota’s Fire Service, I think the Fire Protection Districts will be key to providing a sustainable path forward for many departments in the state. Cloquet Fire District is currently set up as a fire protection district through special legislation. Chief Schroeder has been working for many years to get their legislation amended to fix a technical reference in their legislation which has been preventing them having bonding authority.

We will be discussing this issue more at the Chiefs Conference in Duluth this year; attend the education session to learn more about the benefits of Fire Protection Districts. Please contact me if you would like more information or are interested in assisting with this initiative. We are looking for departments and personnel who are interested in getting this initiative passed to assist.

Another big success this year is the adoption of the omnibus pension bill. Many of the provisions included that affect the fire service were recommended by the Auditors Relief Association Working Group. We have a separate update on the pension changes if you are interested in the details. The pension update will be on the legislative committee page of the MSFCA website or you can contact me directly to get a copy. Thank you to everyone who served on workgroups to work on the pension changes. We still have more updates to work on in the future to make the changes that were recommended from some of the workgroups that did not get included in this year’s pension bill.

We started to work on educating legislators on a new multiyear initiative this year. Local control of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is a new initiative for us that will likely take multiple years to accomplish. The initiative would allow for local cities or townships determine who their ambulance provider is. Currently the ambulance provider is determined by the state Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board (EMSRB). Most of the ambulance provider Primary Service Areas (PSA) were determined in the early 1980’s and there is no local accountability or input for the ongoing service that is being provided. This would allow the local policy makers to determine who is best situated to provide service to their community and what level of service they can expect.

Two of our big defensive positions were also successful this year. Again, we held off the expansion of fireworks in Minnesota. The second perennial defensive position was the residential fire sprinkler ban. Surprisingly neither of the topics made it to the Governor’s desk.

A few other notable policies from this year were the adoption of additional flame retardants that are banned, the MBFTE statute was updated, we continued to educate legislators on MNFIRE and the issues that affect the fire service personally and we kept school non-evacuation fire drills from becoming law.

Even outside of the legislative session our committee continues to work on building relationships and educating stakeholders on our policy issues. As you are reading this, the committee has already started to work on the legislative agenda for the 2020 legislative session. While there is a committee to work on legislative issues, it is imperative that all members of the chief’s association communicate with their local legislators to advance our legislative agenda. The state legislators like to hear from and trust their local fire officials more than any of us can accomplish by meeting with your legislators at the Capitol. If the legislators understand how this affects your department and their constituents, they will likely take more of an interest in our legislative issues. We can provide you with talking points and our lobbyist may be available to join you.

I would ask that all of you get involved in the legislative initiatives of the fire service! Please contact me at [email protected] msfca.org and 952-895-4571 or Ann Lenczewski at [email protected] locklaw.com and 612-396-6439 or any legislative committee member if you have any questions or need any assistance. Please also contact Ann or me if you have any ideas for legislative issues that would be appropriate for the association to potentially adopt. We are also looking to get committee members from each region so please consider joining the committee.

  • Chair: BJ Jungmann, Fire Chief, Burnsville Fire
  • Allen Lewis, Fire Chief, Virginia Fire
  • Charlie Smith, Fire Chief SBM Fire
  • Dan L’Allier, Deputy Public Safety Director, Lino Lakes Public Safety Department
  • Dale Specken, Fire Chief, Hopkins Fire
  • Erik Jankila, Fire Chief, Hibbing Fire
  • George Esbensen, MNFIRE
  • James VanEyll, Fire Chief, Long Lake Fire
  • Jared Gapinski, Fire Captain, Sauk Rapids Fire
  • Jim McCoy, Fire Chief, Austin Fire
  • John Cunningham, Fire Chief, Brooklyn Park Fire
  • John Fruetel, Fire Chief, Minneapolis Fire
  • John Piper, Fire Chief, Coon Rapids Fire
  • John Vance, Fire Chief, Minnetonka Fire
  • Kevin Schroeder, Fire Chief, Cloquet Area Fire District
  • Mark Marcy, 2nd Assistant Chief, Windom Fire
  • Mark Juelfs, Fire Chief, South Metro FireMike Scott, Fire Chief, Eagan Fire
  • Rich Duysen, Fire Chief, Moorehead Fire
  • Ryan Knust, Deputy State Fire Marshal, State Fire Marshal Office
  • Steve Koering, Fire Chief, St. Louis Park Fire
  • Wayne Kewitsch, Fire Chief, Richfield Fire

2018 Mission: The mission of the Legislative Committee is to provide focus, representation and visibility for the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association in legislative activities by advocating, supporting, sponsoring, opposing and actively participating in the legislative process involving those issues, areas or proposals as directed by the President of the Association.

2018 Committee Report: The 2018 legislative session was the second year of the biennium, which means that all of the bills not passed in the first year carried over and were able to be heard/passed in the second year. This also means that it was not a budget year, which usually means legislators focus more time on policy issues and capital investments/bonding, and not finance. At the end of the session, there was still a lot of time spent on finance this past session. A supplemental budget that was 998 pages long passed the house and senate but ended up vetoed by the Governor.

A huge win this year was the passage of the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) presumption. This effort was led by the MPFF and supported by MSFCA, MSFDA and MNFAC (Minnesota Fire Association Coalition). This is one component of the MNFIRE initiative. By implementing the PTSD presumption, it shifts the burden from the employee to the employer. If you are diagnosed with PTSD as a firefighter it is now presumed that the illness was contracted as part of your work as a firefighter. The employer will now have to prove that the illness was not contracted as part of your course of employment. I hope that this will help firefighters and other public safety professionals get treatment for their mental health illnesses without having to worry about who is going to pay for it. This is a major policy change and there were very compelling speeches given on the house floor about this topic leading to unanimous vote to approve the bill. Those compelling speeches were given by State Representatives Zerwas, Mahoney and Johnson. Thank you to all of our fire service partners who helped work on this bill.

One big initiative that we will need your assistance to pass is the creation of Fire Protection District Authority. Unfortunately, the House Property Tax committee would not hear this bill. However, the Senate did hear this bill and included our proposal in the Senate Tax bill. Due to opposition from the House this bill was removed during conference committee negotiations between the house and senate. The framework proposed to allow Fire Protection Districts is important to the future of the Minnesota Fire Service giving departments another option for collaboration, equity between communities, staffing, equipment, transparency in budgeting and sustainable funding through collaboration. This initiative would allow two or more local units of government to create a fire district with its own taxing authority. This would be similar to how school districts operate with their own tax levy and ability to bond. Forty-two states already have enabling legislation and operate departments very successful under this model. We have a number of departments in our state interested in this initiative but it will take everyone’s assistance to be successful as the current House Property Tax Committee has major reservation about allowing another special taxing district.

Without our proposed framework, It is likely that each of individual departments will then pursue special legislation to get their taxing authority set up. Currently most collaborative departments are set up through joint powers agreements/agencies which is not as stable of governance and funding as a taxing district. In addition, there have been concerns from some local governments about the current process of contracting for service and the sustainability of the current options for providing sustainable fire protection services. Given the makeup of Minnesota’s Fire Service, I think the Fire Protection Districts will be key to providing a sustainable path forward for many departments in the state. Cloquet Fire District is currently set up as a fire protection district through special legislation. Chief Schroeder has been working for many years to get their legislation amended to fix a technical reference in their legislation which has been preventing them having bonding authority.

We will be discussing this issue more at the Chiefs Conference in St. Paul this year; attend the roundtable discussion to learn more about the benefits of Fire Protection Districts. Please contact me if you would like more information or are interested in assisting with this initiative.

Another big success this year is the adoption of the omnibus pension bill. It has been a few years since a pension bill has been adopted leaving many provisions recommended by the Auditors Relief Association Working Group. This year’s bill includes requirements for the fire chief to certify service credit, clarification on concurrent service credit, enables EMS personnel to earn relief association benefits from a fire based EMS service, establishes combined service credit option, establishing a trust if a relief association dissolves and establishes/adjusts maximum benefit caps on some plans.

Two of our big defensive positions were also successful this year. Again, we held off the expansion of fireworks in Minnesota. The second perennial defensive position was the residential fire sprinkler ban. Surprisingly neither of the topics made it to the Governor’s desk.

We continue to have a great working relationship with our other association partners who make up MNFAC (Minnesota Fire Department Association, Fire Marshal’s Association of Minnesota and International Association of Arson Investigators Minnesota Chapter) as well as the Minnesota Professional Firefighters. These relationships are key to providing a unified front from the fire service at the Capitol and the success of many initiatives. We also worked closely with the Minnesota Ambulance Association and the other associations to reach resolution on bills that we had concerns over.

As you are reading this, the committee has already started to work on the legislative agenda for the 2019 legislative session. While there is a committee to work on legislative issues, it is imperative that all members of the chiefs association communicate with their local legislators to advance our legislative agenda. The state legislators like to hear from and trust their local fire officials more than any of us can accomplish by meeting with your legislators at the capitol. If the legislators understand how this affects your department and their constituents, they will likely take more of an interest in our legislative issues. We can provide you with talking points and our lobbyist may be available to join you.

I would ask that all of you get involved in the legislative initiatives of the fire service! Please contact our lobbyist Sherry Munyon at [email protected], myself at [email protected] 952-895-4571 or any legislative committee member if you have any questions or need any assistance. Please also contact Sherry or me if you have any ideas for legislative issues that would be appropriate for the chiefs association to potentially adopt. We are also looking to get committee members from each region, please consider joining the committee if your region is not represented.

  • Chair: BJ Jungmann, Fire Chief, Burnsville Fire
  • John Cunningham, Fire Chief, Brooklyn Park
  • Rich Duysen, Fire Chief, Moorehead
  • George Esbensen, Fire Chief, Eden Prairie
  • John Fruetel, Fire Chief, Minneapolis
  • Jared Gapinski, Captain, Sauk Rapids
  • Erik Jankila, Fire Chief, Hibbing
  • Wayne Kewitsch, Fire Chief, Richfield
  • Mark Klaith, Fire Chief, Marshal
  • Ryan Kunst, Deputy State Fire Marshal, State Fire Marshal Division
  • Steve Koering, Fire Chief, St. Louis Park
  • Dan L’Allier, Fire Chief, Lino Lakes
  • Allen Lewis, Fire Chief, Virginia
  • Mark Marcy, 2nd Assistant Chief, Windom
  • Jim McCoy, Fire Chief, Austin
  • Tom Miller, Fire Chief, Pine City
  • John Piper, Fire Chief, Coon Rapids
  • Mike Pott, Fire Chief, South Metro
  • Kevin Schroeder, Fire Chief, Cloquet
  • Mike Scott, Fire Chief, Eagan
  • Charlie Smith, Fire Chief, SBM
  • Dale Specken, Fire Chief, Hopkins
  • John Vance, Fire Chief, Minnetonka
  • Lobbyist: Sherry Munyon, Capital Access

Legislative Committee File Library

Legislative Bill Tracker File Library

EMS Transcripts File Library