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California Grange sponsors legislation to aid volunteer firefighters


Last updated 5/10/2007 at Noon

SACRAMENTO — Every day, somewhere in California, a life or property is saved by a volunteer firefighter. Out of an estimated 40,000 firefighters in the state, 8,000 are volunteers. They can be found in small towns and rural communities where fire departments are understaffed, under-equipped, under-funded or nonexistent.

It’s common for these volunteer firefighters to pay out-of-pocket for their training and equipment. This can be very expensive, but they step up because they see the need and they want to make a difference.

The California State Grange is leading an effort to provide a personal income tax credit for these over-utilized and underappreciated men and women to help offset the expenses they incur in the line of duty.

“They deserve our respect and support. If in some small way we can show them our appreciation, why not do it?” reasons California State Grange President Randall Lewis, in support of the legislation.

If anyone knows about the sacrifices these firefighters make, it would be Lewis. He logged 27 years with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Now the President of the State Grange, a public service organization with deep roots in agriculture, Lewis leads 10,000 members in 185 communities across California. The idea to provide tax relief for volunteer firefighters came out of a legislative session last October at the State Grange convention held in Bakersfield. The membership adopted a resolution to promote and support such legislation.

The State Grange found a champion in Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa. And on February 23, Assemblyman LaMalfa introduced AB 1700 to the California Legislature. If passed, beginning in 2008 the bill will provide a personal income tax credit to volunteer firefighters for up to 80 percent of their qualified out-of-pocket expenses.

AB 1700 is currently in the Assembly Revenue & Tax Committee and is scheduled for hearing on May 14. For information on the progress of AB 1700, contact Michael Greene, California State Grange Director of Legislative Affairs, at (916) 736-1572.


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