By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — A bill introduced and championed by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11 of Hazleton, has passed through committee and could make its way to the House floor shortly.
The Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act passed through the House Ways and Means committee by a 37-0 vote Tuesday, according to Barletta. The bill next heads to the House floor for a vote, which could take place at the end of this month or in March, Barletta said.
The bill addresses issues involving the counting of volunteer firefighters as employees for tax purposes.
Barletta had repeatedly questioned the IRS for an interpretation on volunteer firefighters and emergency responders as they relate to the Employer Mandate Provision of Obamacare, which requires companies of 50 or more employees to provide health insurance coverage.
The IRS and Treasury Department responded to Barletta’s concerns, assuring lawmakers that volunteer firefighters would not count as employees, saying, “The forthcoming final regulations relating to employer-shared responsibility generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents).”
However, Barletta wants to make sure this decision is written into law.
“They have not come out with their final regulations,” he said. “They have indicated that volunteers would not be required to comply, but the final regulations haven’t been disclosed yet. And regulations can be changed. I want to codify this with law.”
If the bill’s previous record is any indication, Barletta is optimistic it will be able to pass through Congress.
“It passed with unanimous, bipartisan support,” he said. “And judging by the amount of support I’m getting verbally from members from all around the country, I’m confident that this will pass when it reaches the floor.”