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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Tours Northern Wisconsin Fire Recovery Effort with First Responders

Announces Co-Sponsorship of Legislation to Support Volunteer Firefighters and EMTs

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin toured the northern Wisconsin Germann Road Fire recovery effort with first responders and local officials on Sunday and today she announced her co-sponsorship of bipartisan legislation that would support volunteer fire fighter and EMT first responders.

“I am so proud of the response by first responders and local officials to this devastating fire. Their commitment to public service and the idea of neighbor helping neighbor is inspiring,” Baldwin said, “It was great to have an opportunity to thank them for their efforts on behalf of their community, many of them volunteer first responders who selflessly answer the call to duty every day.”

Senator Baldwin toured the damage and recovery efforts and met with local officials and volunteers first responders from Douglas County, and the Towns of Highland, Gordon, Wascott and Barnes.

Click here for pictures of Senator Baldwin’s visit.

"The quick response of our local fire departments made all of the difference in being able to contain the fire. Forty six of the 47 of them were volunteer departments. One of the biggest challenges we face today is recruiting and retaining volunteers, especially younger volunteers,” said Tom Michalek, Wascott Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief. “It was important to be able to show Senator Baldwin this need and the role of our volunteer departments first hand. Every volunteer in a community is helping someone somewhere.”

Today, Senator Baldwin announced that she has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.501) and the Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act of 2013 (S.506). Both measures would clarify how volunteer benefits are taxed, making it easier for local agencies and governments to establish and administer incentive programs to bolster recruitment and retention efforts of volunteer first responders, particularly in small towns and rural areas of Wisconsin.

“This legislation recognizes the critical role volunteer first responders play in our communities, particularly in small, rural towns in Wisconsin,” Baldwin said, “These tax and pension reform measures will help create incentives and strengthen our recruitment and retention efforts for volunteer first responders.”

The Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act extends an income tax exemption on certain benefits that volunteer emergency responders receive as a reward for their service. The Volunteer Emergency Services Recruitment and Retention Act simplifies how volunteer pensions  are taxed and eliminates burdensome and confusing IRS requirements that make it unnecessarily difficult for departments to administer plans and for first responders to receive benefits.