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Lawmakers Trying To Waive Background Check Fees For First Responders

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- When Pennsylvania lawmakers passed changes to the state child abuse laws, they never intended for it to place a new financial burden on first responders.

But that's exactly what happened.

Now, some lawmakers are trying to correct the misstep and save volunteer firefighters and EMS crews some money.

Emergency responders and state lawmakers are supporting a new House bill. The plan would exempt volunteer emergency responders from paying the nearly $50 in fees for state and federal background checks. The fees were added as part of the changes to the child abuse laws.

While $50 may not sound like a lot, the fees add up.

"I think it potentially could hurt fire departments," says Etna Borough's Fire Chief, Greg Porter.

The changes go into effect on July 1. Adults who are responsible for the welfare of a child, or have direct contact with children will need to get clearance. The change applies to adults who hold unpaid positions, like volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders.

"The logistics of managing that with 40-50 volunteers can be difficult and expensive," says Porter.

People who support the fee exemption proposal also say they still support the changes to the state's child abuse laws.

The bill has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

State Representative Dom Costa, of Allegheny County, is on the committee. He says, he hopes to move the bill through during the upcoming budget session.

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