Committee: Legislative Committee

Contact: BJ Jungmann, Chair –  [email protected]

2021 Mission: The mission of the Legislative Committee is to provide focus, representation and visibility for the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association in legislative activities by advocating, supporting, sponsoring, opposing and actively participating in the legislative process involving those issues, areas or proposals as directed by the President of the Association.

2021 Report: The 2021 legislative session was the first year of the biennium, which means that the focus of the session is generally on a budget for the state. The regular legislative session must adjourn in May by statute, but due to COVID-19, there have been a number of special sessions that have kept the Capitol lively throughout this year. This also marked our third legislative session with our lobbying firm, Lockridge Grindal Nauen (LGN). Working with LGN over the past three years has been very productive and informative. We now have over ten lobbyists working on our behalf at the capitol. LGN has a wide net of relationships within the state government on both sides of the aisle and in many of the departments within the state. These relationships proved to pay dividends throughout the year to ensure that key decision makers are informed about our legislative initiatives.

We also continued our partnership with the Minnesota Fire Association Coalition (MNFAC) which is comprised of our Association, Minnesota State Fire Department Association (MSFDA), Minnesota Fire Marshals Association (FMAM) and the Minnesota Chapter of the International Arson Investigators Association (IAAI). This group hires our lobbyist together, and we work off a single legislative agenda to provide a united front from the Minnesota Fire Service at the Capitol. The MNFAC group meets bi-weekly throughout the legislative session to address any issues and discuss legislative strategy. Although we don’t represent the career firefighters from the Minnesota Professional Firefighters (MPFF), we do work very closely with their President Chris Parsons on the Fire Service Day at the Capitol and our legislative initiatives to ensure we are all working together to advance the Minnesota Fire Service at the Capitol.

MNFAC had a memorable year at the Minnesota State Capitol in 2021. Our top legislative priorities were advanced at the Capitol and significant progress was made on the remaining priorities. It has been an honor to work on your behalf. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed or completely halted a great deal of legislative work in 2020, which meant that much worked needed to be done in the first year of the 2021-2022 biennium. The Minnesota House exclusively conducted their work remotely, and the Minnesota Senate conducted their work in a hybrid model. The differing work styles added a layer of complexity that slowed down end-of-session negotiations. House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Governor Walz finally came to a global budget agreement on the last day of the regular session, but there was not enough time to complete all of the necessary budget work. The legislature was called back mid-June by the governor in order to complete their work in a special session, ahead of a government shutdown. They finished just ahead of the July 1 deadline.

This year, we continued to strengthen relationships with key committee chairs, dozens of legislators, the governor’s office, House and Senate leadership and agency heads. Our relationships spanned all caucuses and the governor’s office. These relationships were critical in advancing our priorities at the Capitol.

MNFAC’s legislative efforts were extremely successful this year. We achieved major success in two primary areas: the Fire Safety Account and Fire Protection Districts. Like in 2019, we succeeded in securing all funding dollars in the Fire Safety Account. The Fire Safety Account is used to fund the State Fire Marshal’s Office, State Response Teams (HAZMAT, Air Rescue and Task Force 1) and the Board of Firefighter Training and Education.

New this year was the passage of fire protection district legislation in the omnibus tax bill. We worked closely with our chief authors, tax committee chairs, property tax committee chairs, nonpartisan staff, external partners and fire leaders who were willing to testify to push this legislation across the finish line. We know this statewide legislation will bring much needed relief to so many departments. Thank you to everyone who helped make this legislative victory possible.

A multi-year education strategy was continued in the area of EMS local control during this legislative session. MNFAC leaders participated in an informational hearing on Emergency Medical Services in the House Health Finance and Policy Committee where they shared their concerns. Additionally, MNFAC worked closely with students at the University of Minnesota who conducted analysis of Minnesota’s EMS statutes and regulations. Another notable development in this area is that MNFAC’s work has prompted the Office of the Legislative Auditor to begin an evaluation of medical emergency ambulance services in Minnesota. Work will continue on this issue in 2022.

There was also some progress made in the area of pensions. We continued to strengthen relationships with members of the Pensions Commission. We also appreciate all of you who served on various pension working groups. The legislature passed a noncontroversial pension bill that included recommendations from the State Auditor’s Working Group, a fix for the splitting of fire state aid between a municipality and combination fire departments and created a working group that will soon meet to discuss the allocation of supplemental firefighter state aid and possible revisions.

Many of the important initiatives that we support were also successful this year. This includes funding of MnFIRE’s Hometown Heroes Assistance Program, the creation of a 911 telecommunicator working group and legislation that would require sprinklers in public residential high-rise buildings. We were also able to defeat legislative threats like expansion of fireworks and threats to State Building Code. We know those have become perennial issues, and we will remain vigilant in stopping those efforts in 2022.

Finally, we wanted to thank everyone who participated in our Fire Service Day at the Capitol on January 19, 2021. Due to the remote nature of this year’s legislative session, we conducted the event virtually. Governor Walz, Commissioner John Harrington and many other public safety leaders joined the event.

We are looking forward to next year’s Day at the Capitol that will return in-person on Wednesday, February 9. We have thoroughly enjoyed working on your behalf at the Capitol. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.

2021 Legislative Committee Members

  • Chair: BJ Jungmann, Burnsville, Fire Chief
  • Government Relations Firm: Lockridge Grindal Nauen
  • Matt Ashmore, Cloquet, Fire Chief
  • T. John Cunningham, Brooklyn Park, Fire Chief
  • Rich Duysen, Moorhead, Fire Chief
  • George Esbensen, MnFIRE
  • Patrick Farrens, Maple Grove, Deputy Chief
  • John Fruetel, Minneapolis, Fire Chief (retired)
  • Jared Gapinski, Sauk Rapids, Captain
  • Erik Jankila, Hibbing, Fire Chief
  • Mark Juelfs, South Metro, Fire Chief
  • Eric Kerska, Rochester, Fire Chief
  • Wayne Kewitsch, Richfield, Fire Chief (retired)
  • Steve Koering, St. Louis Park, Fire Chief
  • Ryan Kunst, State Fire Marshal Division
  • Dan L’Allier, Lino Lakes, Deputy Director
  • Allen Lewis, Virginia, Fire Chief
  • Mark Marcy, Windom, 2nd Assistant Chief
  • Jim McCoy, Austin, Fire Chief
  • Mike Mondor, Maplewood, EMS Chief
  • Mike Nelson, South Metro, Captain
  • John Piper, Coon Rapids, Fire Chief
  • Andrew Slama, Edina, Fire Chief
  • Kevin Schroeder, Cloquet, Fire Chief (retired)
  • Ryan Schroeder, Watertown, Fire Chief
  • Mike Scott, Eagan, Fire Chief (retired)
  • Charlie Smith, SBM, Fire Chief
  • Dale Specken, Hopkins, Fire Chief
  • Bryan Tyner, Minneapolis, Fire Chief
  • John Vance, Minnetonka, Fire Chief
  • James VanEyll, Long Lake, Fire Chief
  • Jay Wood, Plato, Assistant Chief

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