HB340: As time ticks down, PFFPNC aims for field goal range

Senate leaders announced this week that the likelihood of statewide bills moving in committee or to the floor are unlikely. With HB340 | Separation Allowance hanging in the balance, PFFPNC was granted a 30-minute meeting with Senate Chief of Staff Jim Blaine on Thursday, June 21.

PFFPNC fire fighters from around the state spent time in Raleigh talking to their representatives this week on behalf of HB340.

PFFPNC Political Director Josh Smith and DVP Scott Mullins did an effective job explaining HB340, and Blaine said he would discuss the merits of the bill with Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). Blaine, who seemed impressed by the presentation, said he could not commit to the bill getting to the Senate floor but said an open committee hearing this week would allow skeptical senators to learn how the bill saves municipalities and the state money over the long-term. Blaine then added at the close of the meeting, “If the bill catches fire in the hearing, you never know what could happen in the Senate.”

PFFPNC agreed to any hearing granted by the Senate leadership and is awaiting an answer fro Sen. Berger’s office. In the meantime, the NC League of Municipalities is ratcheting up its criticisms of separation allowance in alerts to its members and legislators by warning about the $300 million fiscal note, which some legislators are mistakenly believing is an annual cost to cities and towns.

“The League is promoting misinformation to legislators and their municipal members,” Smith says. “Not only is the $300 million not an annual cost to cities, that number is actually the cost of every fire fighter retiring in North Carolina at one time. Approximately 100 fire fighters retire annually in North Carolina and there is no way that cost cities $300 million.”

Smith said that the NCLM should actually see the bill as a benefit to municipal budgets as the bill encourages eligible fire fighters to leave the profession with dignity while freeing up senior salaries for new and less costly hires (salaries, workers compensation, health, etc.).

Mullins also underscored the state savings in the meeting with Blaine by showing that a fire fighter who retires at 30 years of service is less of a financial burden to the state retirement system than a 40-year fire fighter who leaves the job with a higher costing multiplier.