Sen. Brown says he didn't know bill already existed
Brown's Communication Director Joanna Kuebler said Brown was not trying claim he wrote the bill. She said a staff member would have written the legislation and Brown was not aware that an identical House bill existed, Kuebler said.
"It's common to have a House companion bill to a Senate bill," Kuebler said. "It helps move along the negotiation process."
"He would never take credit for something that wasn't his," Kuebler said.
Kuebler said Brown wants to focus on the issue, not which side of Congress it originated from.
"He's not happy with the misconception -- he wants this to be about the firefighters. He wants this bill to go through," Kuebler said.
Kuebler said it was not clear on Sunday if a member of Brown's legislative staff had been talking to someone in the Colorado congressman's office.
The Enquirer is waiting for returned phone calls from Perlmutter's office.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced a bill last week aimed at reducing firefighter fatalities, a bill with the same name and exact language as a bill introduced in the U.S. House nearly three weeks ago.
But at a news conference Saturday to tout his bill, Brown said - in reply to a question from a reporter - that he did not know there was a related bill in the House.
Carrie Whitaker has the story here
Here's the full release:
IN WAKE OF TWO FIRE FIGHTER DEATHS IN COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, BROWN ANNOUNCES BILL TO PROMOTE FIRE SAFETY STANDARDS
Cincinnati, Ohio — In the wake of the deaths of two firefighters in Colerain Township, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today highlighted efforts to promote fire safety standards at the Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 48. Brown’s legislation, the Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act, would promote consensus safety standards to reduce the number of avoidable deaths among firefighters.
According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, more than 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty each year, while tens of thousands of additional fire fighters sustain work-related injuries. While the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other groups have developed industry safety standards, they are voluntary and often ignored by fire departments. Brown’s bill would encourage the adoption of national consensus fire fighter safety standards and promote fire department compliance with such standards.
“We shouldn’t have to think twice about bolstering the safety of our fire fighters,” Brown said. “Our first responders put their lives at risk daily across Ohio. We should take this opportunity to prevent fire fighter injury and death.”
The Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to determine the rate of fire department compliance with standards for safe operations, staffing, training and fitness among career, volunteer, and combination fire departments. It would create a task force to explore the adoption of safety standards by fire departments and provide recommendations to the Congress, states, and localities on how to increase fire department compliance with safety standards. This bill would not mandate federal oversight of local fire departments, but instead would explore how the federal government could best promote fire fighter safety standards and assist fire departments with compliance.
Brown is also the sponsor of the Fire Fighter Higher Education Incentive Act of 2007 which would help federal, state, city, and county fire districts recruit highly educated fire fighters by forgiving student loans taken out by firefighters under the federal Perkins Loan program. Given the high costs of college, many fire fighters struggle to afford higher education. However, fire fighter responsibilities have become complex and dependent on advanced technology. All employees in fire protection would be eligible for the benefit, including fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMT), rescue workers, ambulance personnel, and hazardous materials workers. Under current law, Perkins debt for teachers, nurses, military, and law enforcement officers can be forgiven.
“Loan forgiveness is both well deserved and an effective recruitment tool,” Brown said. “America’s fire fighters literally put their lives on the line for us. The least we can do is give them access to the same benefits as other first responders.”