Schepisi and Bucco bill protecting volunteer firefighters from forced retirement earns committee approval

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All volunteer firefighters, EMTs and ambulance corps who retire with a state pension will not be forced to resign their volunteer positions serving the public and responding to emergencies under a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi and Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco. The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today unanimously advanced A536.

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An interpretation of contained language in the Internal Revenue Code requires retiring police officers or municipal employees who also volunteer as firefighters, EMTs or ambulance corps in the same town, to sever both their employment and non-paid relationship. These employees risk losing pensions if they continue to volunteer.

“Most of our communities rely on our volunteers who are often also municipal employees,” said Schepisi (R—Bergen). “These dedicated, skilled and experienced people respond to emergencies for no more payment than the gratitude of their neighbors. They should be able to continue to protect the community without risking their pensions.

“We can’t change IRS code, but we can protect volunteers and limit the effect on towns that rely on volunteers and struggle to find round-the-clock protection for their community,” added Schepisi, who first introduced the measure in June 2015.

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The Schepisi-Bucco bill ensures all volunteers, including firefighters, EMTs and ambulance corps who receive state pensions are compliant with state and IRS regulations.

“Volunteers are critical to our towns,” said Bucco (R—Morris), a longtime volunteer who has been with the Boonton Volunteer Fire Department for 37 years. “It is unfathomable to think we would turn away experienced volunteers. I can’t imagine how our towns would manage without the dedicated and selfless first-responders who drop everything, at all hours of the day or night, to come to the aid of their neighbors, not to mention the millions of dollars of tax savings afforded to our residents through their volunteer service. “

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