Senate passes Zorn local public safety bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to help more local communities fill first responder and public safety positions.

Currently in Michigan, a public servant of a township, city, village or county with a population of 25,000 or more cannot serve that community as an EMT, firefighter, police officer or public safety officer.

“This simple reform would allow more local public servants — who are trained and willing to serve — to help save lives in their communities,” said Zorn, R-Ida.

Senate Bill 19 would expand the current population limit to enable local governments with up to 40,000 residents to have board or council members serve the local government as EMTs, firefighters, police officers or public safety officers.

“Many rural Michigan townships in the 1990s were struggling to find volunteer firefighters or EMTs — a problem made worse by the fact that townships could not consider trained board members for these positions,” Zorn said. “The law was changed to provide more flexibility, but now townships just above the population limit are having the same issues in finding enough first responders and police officers.

“My bill will improve safety in small communities, clear up confusion due to different population limits in different laws, and put in protections to ensure elected officials serving in public safety positions are not also participating in collective bargaining negotiations.”

SB 19 also expands the positions open to board or council members. Currently, the exemptions are limited to firefighter and EMT positions. It would add fire chiefs, public safety officers and police chiefs to the list.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.