Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C,I,Ref-Lockport) would like constituents to be aware of a new law that he helped to enact to benefit firefighters across New York state. The law directs the Office of Fire Prevention and Control, within the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, to form a task force on volunteer firefighter recruitment and to issue a report to the state Legislature and governor by next year.

Norris has been a leading advocate for volunteer firefighter recruitment since being elected to office and felt there was a lack of attention on the issue coming from the state. Norris has regularly met with volunteer fire companies in his district and the reoccurring major issue is the recruitment and retention of members.

The framework of this new law came from an initiative Norris brought forth in Albany by introducing legislation (A.8307) to form a task force to examine recruitment and retention. A marked-up version (A.9779) was then introduced by the Assembly’s Local Governments Committee Chair, passed, and signed into law on Nov. 11, 2020. Norris said he was proud to co-sponsor the marked-up version and put forth an important proposal for bi-partisan review, which will examine the needs and required resources of local volunteer fire companies with experts for decades to come.   

“In the news, we often hear about the turmoil going on in politics but I think it’s crucial that people also hear about how their government can work to get things accomplished,” said Norris. “I’ve always tried to work in a bi-partisan manner to do what I can to ensure the voices of my constituents are heard. This new law is an example of that. I’m pleased to have delivered on this issue, particularly because our fire companies do so much to protect all of us.”

 Low recruitment and the aging out of existing volunteers has become a major concern for companies and municipalities, not only in terms of public safety, but also in that volunteer fire companies save taxpayers billions in expenses annually.

“I’m really glad that this task force will be examining ways that we can get more people involved in volunteering,” said Norris. “New ideas they will explore include partnering with BOCES and giving educational credit to younger people who want to serve their community. Volunteer fire companies remain the backbone of our rural and suburban communities and we must continue providing them with the tools and resources necessary to keep us safe.”

Feature Photo: Assemblyman Mike Norris meets with Niagara County firefighters in 2017.