Alabama Legislature passes bill to outlaw ‘first responders’ fee

| 4/28/2010

A bill on its way to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s desk would prohibit communities from charging a fee when police and fire personnel respond to vehicle accidents.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill to outlaw levying fees for the response of vehicle accidents by law enforcement. The vote cleared the way for the bill to move to the governor. House lawmakers have already endorsed the measure – HB306 –by unanimous consent.

With Riley’s signature, Alabama would become the 10th state to outlaw the practice. States with bans in place are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

The Alabama bill would forbid a law enforcement agency, officer or any entity from charging a “first responders” fee on drivers, owners of vehicles or insurance providers. The ban would not affect volunteer fire departments or rescue squads.

Opponents say the accident-response service fees are needed to stretch already tight budgets. Others say taxpayers shouldn’t be billed for accidents they didn’t cause.

Supporters say the fees, which can total several hundred dollars depending on which personnel respond and how long they are present, are a form of double taxation. They point out that emergency services are covered by property taxes, utility fees or other methods. In addition, the taxes aren’t covered under insurance policies.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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