Transportation and Telecommunications

Increased fee proposed to fund first responder training

The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard testimony Jan. 27 on a bill that would provide funding for rural first responder training.

Sen. Myron Dorn
Sen. Myron Dorn

LB761, sponsored by Adams Sen. Myron Dorn, would increase an existing “50 Cents for Life” motor vehicle registration fee by 50 cents, which would bring the fee to $1 each year.

The additional revenue would fund Simulation in Motion, a University of Nebraska Medical Center training simulation that prepares first responders and emergency medical technicians in rural Nebraska.

The state’s population is rapidly aging, Dorn said, which comes with an increased possibility for complex health issues that require emergency medical services.

“The better trained our first responders are, the better the outcomes for those who have suffered a medical emergency on the road, on the farm or at home,” he said.

Doug Dekker, program manager for Simulation in Motion, supported the bill. The training program has the potential to impact the health of every person in Nebraska, he said.

“A 50 cent per motor vehicle registration fee is a small price to pay for the benefit of sustaining this life-saving program,” Dekker said.

Lancaster County Commissioner Sean Flowerday also spoke in support of LB761. Lancaster County is one of the best served areas in terms of emergency medical services, he said, however there is a significant lapse in response time for rural parts of the county.

“These rescue calls are imperative to the safety and well-being of Lancaster County residents,” Flowerday said. “[Simulation in Motion] gives rural residents the best training available so that they can deliver the best care possible.”

Michael Wiekhorst, chief of the Valley Fire Department, testified in favor of the bill. Valley is located between two large, expanding cities and sees significant commuter traffic, he said, but is served by an entirely volunteer fire department.

“With a very limited annual budget, we could not afford the training that [Simulation in Motion] provides free of charge,” Wiekhorst said. “Prior to this training, units such as ours relied primarily on in-house training that was not nearly as comprehensive and that did not train us to the highest level of preparedness.”

Opposing LB761 was Loy Todd, president of the Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association. Providing proper training for first responders and emergency medical technicians is vitally important, he said, however it is unfair to seek funding for such training by increasing already high motor vehicle taxes.

“Years ago, [our association] made the decision to resist any attempt to tack on additional fees on motor vehicles for anything other than road [projects],” Todd said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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