On May 14, 1908, Governor Haskell signed the Pension Bill in the presence of W.C. Gruber (Guthrie Fire Chief ), J. Bart Foster (Chandler and Secretary to the Association), and George B. Gelder (Stillwater Fire Dept ), committee for the Oklahoma State Firemen’s Association; Ham P. Bee (Ardmore Fire Department) and reading clerk of the house, and W. B. Anthony, secretary to the Governor. The bill had been drafted in the headquarters of the Guthrie Fire Department.
Every city and town was authorized to pay a sum not to exceed $40 per month to each retired member who shall arrive at age 50 and active service of 20 years or more and continuously for two years immediately preceeding his retirement therefrom. It also authorized a sum of $10 per week for injuries suffered in the line of duty for a period of 20 weeks.
This legislation also included provision for the first collection of taxes on insurance sold in the state. The cities and towns could make warrant on this tax to pay benefits to the firemen.
- Passed HB 1616—By Mountford, Privett, Hopkins, Monks, Barker, Nance, Tabor, Allard, Hutchens, McCune, Smithey, Hatchett, Bamberger, Atkins, Miskelly, Howard, Smith (E. W.), Wiedemann, Spearman, Cole, Finch, Bradley, Odom (Martin), Wolf (Leland), Poulos, York, Andrews, Briscoe, Hesser, Bickford, Clemons, Conaghan, Murphy, Payne, Rogers, Thompson, Trent, Wayland, Williamson, and Witt of the House and Smith, Nichols, Keels, McGraw, Breckinridge, McSpadden, Holden, Luton, Baggett, Massey, Horn, Payne, Young, Hargrave, Bradley, Garrett, McCune and Stipe of the Senate— An Act relating to firemen; amending 11 O.S. 1961, § 364, as last amended by Section 1, Chapter 88, O.S.L. 1967 (11 O.S. Supp. 1969, § 364); providing for pension upon retirement after twenty years’ service; providing for increased pension for service up to thirty years; providing for minimum pension; and declaring an emergency.
- Passed SB 139 - Exempted the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System from state income taxes.
- Passed HB 1581 - Allowed fire protection districts to belong to the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System.
- Passed HB 1433 - Gave retired firefighters and widows a 6% increase.
- Stopped HB 1489 - Would have consolidated State Fire Marshal’s office into the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
- Passed HB 1137 - Allowed any municipality to buy liability insurance for fire vehicles at $60 per rig per year (as opposed to the $250 to $750 being charged by insurance companies).
- Passed HB 1879 - Rural Fire Protection Program Fund Act.
- HB 2013 - Changed tax structure to include foreign and domestic insurance companies equally, with the Firefighters Pension System receiving 34% (which amounted to $34 million this year)
- Stopped SB 636 - Would have consolidated State Fire Marshal’s office into Law Enforcement.
- Passed HB 1274 - Created Oklahoma Deferred Option Plan (Plan B)
- Established college benefits for children of firefighters killed in the line of duty.
- Passed HB 1385 - Addressed fees for services rendered by certain fire departments.
- Passed HB 1688 - Expanded eligibility for exemption from general enrollment fee or nonresident tuition to children of Oklahoma volunteer firefighters who have died in the line of duty.
- Passed HB 1876 - Required payment of contributions of deceased members of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System to the estate of the member if there is no beneficiary.
- Passed HB 1551 - Any member of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System called up in the military service will not have to pay contributions to the pension system but will receive credit for time served in the military.
- Passed HB 1713 - Created risk management insurance so fire departments could purchase fire insurance on fire stations, equipment, errors and omissions.
- Passed HB 1788 - Allowed volunteer firefighters transferring to paid departments to count up to five years of volunteer time toward a 20-year paid pension.
- Passed SJR - SQ 645 - Added a new section of law to the State Constitution requiring all proceeds, assets and income of state pension systems to be administered as in trust for a limited purpose. Retirement systems’ assets cannot be used for any other purpose. Passed by vote of the people of Oklahoma by 68%.
- Passed HB 2115 - Established guidelines for the board of county commissioners of each county to enter into certain agreements for fire protection services; provided for payment of such service; provided for codification; provided an effective date.
- Passed SB 646 - Required Department of Agriculture to establish criteria to rate and prioritize applications for certain funding requests, including certain services and rural fire coordinators within risk management. Authorized the State Department of Agriculture to resell certain equipment to rural fire departments.
- Passed SB 980 - Required all persons being considered for the position of paid firefighter to pass the required pre-employment offer, physical performance and agility test based on standards established by the State Pension Board.
- Removed penalty when surviving spouse of a firefighter remarried.
- Gave a widow of a firefighter who participated in Plan B the option of leaving the accumulated money in the State Pension System.
- New law codified in the Oklahoma Statutes regarding COLA disbursement by state pension systems.
- Volunteer pensions increased from $5.33 to $5.46 for each year of service up to 30 years.
- SB 614 vetoed by Governor - Would have terminated the deferred option plan for new hires as of July 1, 1994, created a task force of legislators to study the administrative policies, fiscal implications, benefit structure and the need for reform in any of those areas. Governor David Walters stated that the firefighters were singled out in the legislation and it had more to do with politics than it had to do with good fiscal management.
- Defeated HB 1327 - Would have tied the hands of the pension board. This was defeated by a vote of 82 to 15.
- Passed HB 1398 - Provided for exempt yearly decals to certain fire departments; removing such fire departments from section authorizing tax-exempt license plates.
- Passed HB 2603 - Arson Bill concerning penalty for person causing death by setting them on fire.
- Passed SB 231 - Extended temporary disability for any member of a municipal fire department who sustained a burn injury in the line of duty.
- Passed SB 291 - Allowed certain municipalities to contract for fire protection services with private entities.
- Passed HB 1895 - Provided a one time stipend for those retired prior to June 1997.
- Passed HB 1088 - Allowed wartime military service credit in Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System member’s retirement benefit calculation.
- Passed HB 1089 - Allowed state pension to refund undistributed contributions to survivors.
- Passed HB 2464 - Permitted county fire departments to participate in the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System.
- Passed SB 1037 - Granted 75% CPI-U (Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers) catchup for retirees.
- Passed HB 1044 - Provided an increase in the Death Benefit from $4,000 to $5,000 for members of the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System
- Passed HB 1815 - Granted 25% CPI-U catchup for retirees.
- Passed SB 994 - Granted 3.7% CPI-U catchup for retirees, plus an additional 1% above the CPI-U for a total retiree raise of 4.7%.
- Passed HB 1234 - Added “infectious disease” to the list of disabilities that raise a presumption of on-the-job injury for disability retirement purposes. “Infectious disease” was defined as hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus, meningitis and tuberculosis.
- Passed HB 1251 - Established a method for the $5,000 death benefit to be paid to the funeral home directly, thereby avoiding tax liability for the family
- Passed SB 685 - Increased the number of members on the State Fire Marshal Commission from 5 to 7
- Defeated HB 1660 - Would have removed military time benefit from firefighter pension for new hires and forced firefighters to purchase military time credit
- Passed HB 2124 - Provided a 5% COLA for retired firefighters and increased the volunteer multiplier to $6.69.
- Passed HB 2309 - Clarified language regarding infectious disease presumptions, making it retroactive on Nov. 10, 1999, thereby including the widow of Del City firefighter Steve Townsend, who passed away after contracting meningitis.
- Passed HB 2166 - Clarified language regarding disabled children of a firefighter who becomes deceased, allowing the disable child to continue receiving the deceased firefighter’s pension after the age of 18 provided that the child is not married at the time of the firefighter’s passing. Also allowed widows of firefighters who remarried prior to June 7, 1993, to have their pension reinstated from this point forward.
- Passed SB 668 and HB 1464 - Created the Backdrop Plan that allowed members who worked for more than 20 years to decide retroactively to have service in excess of 20 years (up to five years) treated as though they entered a DROP plan upon completing 20 years of service.
- Passed SB 286 - Reamortized the system to 30 years, thereby reducing the state’s required contribution to the system while ensuring the soundness of the system.
- Stopped legislation that would have made new hires/volunteers have to pay for military credit in the pension system.
- Stopped legislation that would have done away with 7.5% minimum payment on Plan B accounts.
- Passed SB 206 - Gave up one year’s (2003) insurance premium tax contribution to the system (34% of total insurance premium tax or approx. $50 million) and received five year’s worth of increased contributions in exchange for the 2003 amount (got back 41.7% of insurance premium tax before the 2009 deadline).
- Passed SB 422 - Defined combination fire departments and included recognition for volunteer firefighters and their employers (the beginning of incentives for volunteer firefighters).
- Passed HB 2372 - Provided tax incentives to volunteer firefighters of $200 and $400 annually, providing that the minimum training requirements were met. The bill also created the Council on Firefighter Training and ensured that cities offering heath insurance to active employees also offered the same coverage to retired employees.
- Passed HB 2280 - Included, for the first time in state history, the fire service at an executive level when dealing with homeland security and emergency preparedness.
- Passed HB 1134 - Provided a pension increase to both volunteer firefighters and paid firefighters.
- Stopped HB 1308 - Would have weakened COFT.
- Passed HB 1547 - Made headway on Insurance Premium Tax Credits cutting into the pension system contributions.
- Faced the new rogue organization claiming to be for volunteer firefighters head on and won new converts to OSFA.
- Passed HB 1179XX - After failing to pass COLAs in the regular session, the Oklahoma Legislature came through with a 4% retirement benefit increase in the Special Session.
- Played a part in getting $1 million for OSU-FST, and $400,000 for career techs as reimbursement for fire service training.
- Passed SB 1956 - Ensured that tax credits allowed by the State after July 1, 2008 could not be used to reduce the amount of money required to be paid to the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System.
- Passed HB 3112 - Included a 4% retirement benefit increase for cost of living adjustment.
- Passed SB 2143 - Allowed surviving spouse of a deceased firefighter to have the same retirement benefit options as the firefighter had before death.
- Passed SB 726 - Stated that the Fire Chief could not fulfill the role of City Manager and Fire Chief simultaneously.
- Passed HB 1236 - Appropriated $2.25 million to the State Fire Marshal’s office. Also included appropriation for COFT.
- Passed HB 2087 - Allowed for national criminal background checks for paid firefighter applicants to municipal fire departments, the cost to be borne by the applicant.
- Stopped HB 3387 - Would have prevented rural fire departments from charging a fee for going out of area to fight a fire. The bill was killed with just two hours left in the session.
- Passed HB 1285 - Created a Task Force to help identify existing tax credits negatively impacting the funding stream for the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension & Retirement System.
- Stopped HB 1221 - Would have required any firefighter -- paid or volunteer -- who goes to work on or after Nov. 1, 2011, to work longer for a lesser pension than those under the current system.
As we move forward and look back on this contentious legislative session, it is difficult not to talk about our successes.
First and foremost, we were successful in ensuring that the volunteer firefighter tax credit was protected
The legislature is not going to access pension funds to help balance the budget.
Among the bills we supported signed by the Governor is one that will make it easier for municipalities to donate surplus equipment to volunteer departments (SB 1493 by Sen. Smalley and Rep. Park). Effective 11/1/2016
HB 2360 (Rep Rousselote and Sen. Barrington) allows counties to appoint receiving officers from fire departments that receive tax dollars through the county. That item was on the priority list of legislative requests from the volunteer caucus. Effective 7/1/2016
HB 2249 (Rep. Renegar and Sen JJ Dossett) increases the fines and allows for recovery of some first responder costs from individuals who drive past barricades into high water. This was a request bill from Pittsburg County. Effective 6/6/2016
Additionally, Rep Wallace and Sen Barrington passed two administrative cleanup bills for our pension system.
These bills were also passed and signed by the Governor:
HB 2646 -- Amends Prescribed burn statutes
HB 3126 -- Creates the Oklahoma 911 Management Authority and creates duties.
SB 1021 -- Allows for Local Pension Boards that no longer meet or no longer wish to continue holding meetings to expire on January 1, 2017 and ascribes these duties to the State Pension Board.
SB 1027 -- Creates the Oklahoma Incident Management Team and sets duties.
SB 1128 -- Creates the Oklahoma Pension Improvement Revolving Fund for the purpose
of providing COLA’s for retirees or reduce the unfunded liability of Oklahoma Pension Funds. (Fund was created but received no funding)
SB 1180 -- Allows for the funds from the Firefighter tags to be used for the Memorial or Museum.
HB 1340 -- Provided for a one-time stipend of between $350 - $1,000 to paid firefighters and $100 for volunteer firefighters.
HB2161 -- From OSFA Legislative Resolution 17-04, this law allows Title 19 Fire Protection Districts to regulate outdoor burning in a manner very similar to municipal fire departments.
HB2051 -- From OSFA Legislative Resolution 18-02, this law allows non-disability, retired, paid firefighters to return to help their local communities as a volunteer firefighter without affecting their pension.
SB164 -- From OSFA Legislative Resolution 17-05, this law brings the same basic rules to Fire Protection Districts formed under O.S. 19 § 901 that are in place for municipal fire departments and tweeks them to fit the specific needs of the fire protection districts.
HB2269 - Pension Technical Correction Bill
HB3350 -- Frix/Thompson; Provides for COLA: retired 0-2 years - 0%; retired 2-5 years - 2%; retired 5 or more years 4%
SB1665 -- J.West/Weaver; References proper Title for Workers Comp statutes as Title 85a
HB1201 -- Gann/Quinn; Changes process for Administrative Rules approval making it more cumbersome (OSFA Opposed) This bill was killed in committee
SB1813 -- Frix/Stansilawski; Requires all Public Safety Radios be P25 Compliant. This would be cost prohibitive for most departments. OSFA Opposed - Rep. Frix pulled bill from committee upon learning the impact on fire departments