Provides Coronavirus Update, Emphasizes Continued Support for Firefighters and First Responders
Governor Larry Hogan today addressed the International Association of Fire Fighters’ (IAFF) 2020 Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference, where he reaffirmed his strong support for professional firefighters and paramedics in Maryland and across the nation. The governor began his remarks with a brief update on the state’s coordinated response to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
“Just like each and every one of you, my mission—my highest priority—is keeping people safe,” said Governor Hogan. “I want to assure Marylanders that our state is taking every precaution when it comes to the coronavirus, and I know that my fellow governors are all out there on the front lines doing the same thing.”
This year marks the 40th annual legislative conference of the IAFF, which has a membership of more than 320,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics across the United States and Canada. Since taking office, Governor Hogan has been a staunch advocate for the state’s first responders.
“I understand that, for a firefighter, the response area around your station is called your ‘first due.’ As governor, the State of Maryland is my ‘first due.’ It’s my job to make sure my state and its people are kept safe,” said Governor Hogan. “All of you are an important part of helping me do that job, and I can promise you that as long as I am governor, our firefighters will continue to have a friend in the governor’s office. You will continue to find a sympathetic ear, an open door, a seat at the table, and you will continue to have a tireless advocate standing up, having your back, and fighting for you each and every day. You have never stopped being there for us, and I will never stop being there for you.”
In 2017, Governor Hogan enacted the Hometown Heroes benefit so that first responders can exempt the first $15,000 of their retirement income from state taxes. In January of this year, the governor introduced the Hometown Heroes Act of 2020 (HB 350/SB 269) to exempt law enforcement, fire, rescue, corrections, and emergency response personnel from state tax on all retirement income specific to their service in those professions, and to lower the age of eligibility from 55 to 50. This is the fifth year that Governor Hogan has introduced legislation to eliminate state taxes on the retirement income of first responders.
In 2019, Governor Hogan enacted multiple measures to expand medical coverage for first responders, including legislation to add kidney or renal cell cancer and urinary cancer to the nine cancers that Maryland already considers occupational diseases for firefighters under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Last year, the governor also enacted the Firefighter Jesse McCullough’s Cancer Protection Law, which further expands workers’ compensation protection for first responders.
The Fiscal Year 2021 supplemental budget that the governor submitted last week allocates $200,000 to the Professional Firefighters of Maryland for firefighter education and training.