Barrar and Committee Busy Serving Veterans and Emergency Service Professionals
3/20/2015
HARRISBURG – Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, this week held two hearings. The first was an informational hearing that explored how organizations in the Commonwealth serve veterans. The second was a public hearing on his plan to consider the best way to overhaul Pennsylvania’s 911 Emergency Telephone Act.
 
The informational hearing held on Tuesday provided the committee with an opportunity to learn about how organizations in the Commonwealth are serving veterans. Committee members heard from groups who house homeless veterans, train employers about how to hire veterans and create a trust fund to benefit veterans.
 
“The biggest crisis facing our veterans today is suicide. After they come home, we are losing as many as 18 to 22 veterans a day. Tuesday’s hearing was so important because we heard from a number of the groups who are working from all angles to reduce that number,” Barrar said. “I know they won’t be satisfied until not one veteran takes his or her own life, not one is homeless and not one is without a job. These groups are often lifelines for our veterans.”
 
During Tuesday’s hearing, committee members learned that a number of states have programs, such as Kentucky’s Homegrown by Heroes, which connect veterans with agriculture as not only an employment opportunity, but a non-traditional therapy. The program was born when a veteran who was paralyzed with post-traumatic stress disorder began farming 10 acres of land. Not only did he make $87,000 the first year, but his wife credits the experience for healing her husband.
 
“When our heroes return home, we must meet their individual needs. After the unending willingness they had to serve their country, regardless of the danger, it is not enough for us to do the bare minimum when serving our veterans’ needs,” Barrar said. “That’s why I challenge Commonwealth organizations to bring their best programs to the committee every two years; we must always work to more completely serve our country’s heroes.”
 
On Wednesday, the committee held a public hearing to further discuss how to adapt Pennsylvania’s 911 Emergency Telephone Act to changing technology and adjust the surcharge fee to allow for adequate maintenance of our 911 system across the Commonwealth.
 
As Barrar considers all perspectives prior to rewriting Pennsylvania’s 911 Emergency Telephone Act, he hosted the committee’s sixth hearing held on the issue. It provided local government officials, 911 administrators and the telecommunications industry the opportunity to share their views on how to make the system more effective. A panel including individuals representing the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, telecommunications companies, local elected officials, public safety officials, the National Emergency Number Association and the Association of Professional Communications Officials presented to the committee.
 
The bill Barrar is drafting will respond to the unmanageable financial constraints that county 911 centers have experienced as a result of an unchanged fee since its creation in 1990. Communications equipment, inflating personnel costs and technologically advanced services, such as texting and video, demand the first 911 surcharge adjustment in 25 years to meet this challenge.
 
“While I do not agree that the 911 surcharge should be increased to $2 monthly as is written in the current draft of the bill, I do support a lower surcharge fee increase that will adequately address the financial needs of our 911 system, thereby enhancing the public safety of our communities,” Barrar said. “Of course, this 911 surcharge increase must be developed with the taxpayer in mind.”
 
The legislation will include an increase in the 911 surcharge to allow our 911 systems to fully serve all residents of the Commonwealth. The bill will also modernize the state 911 law in many different ways, specifically to integrate and interconnect with next-generation 911 technologies.
 
Barrar is preparing his bill for introduction and committee action this April.
 
Representative Stephen E. Barrar
160th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans
717.260.6206
aevans@pahousegop.com
SteveBarrar.com / Facebook.com/RepBarrar
 
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