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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Legislative Update - Firefighter Compensation

Monday, September 27, 2021

Firefighter Compensation

In Minnesota, rural firefighters do not get the same level of benefits as firefighters from the metro area. This issue was recently brought to my attention by some of our local firefighters in Minnesota House District 21B. They informed me that fire departments from rural cities receive a disproportionately smaller amount of state government aid when compared with cities in the Minneapolis metro area (such as Plymouth and Eagan).  

The way that these benefits are paid for is a combination of state and local money. The state government component is determined by a formula based equally on geography and population. This formula was created back in 1984.

Obviously, our state and population distributions have changed dramatically since 1984. However, the outdated formula has stayed in place and created massive disparities for greater Minnesota.

The current formula for calculating firefighter pensions can result in a metro area firefighter getting a pension five times larger than the pension of a rural firefighter; even though they do the same work. 

For example, the City of Zumbrota has 30 active individuals on their fire department. The City of Plymouth has 61 active individuals on their fire department. According to Department of Revenue estimates, Plymouth received $104,341 of supplemental state aid from Minnesota state government. Meanwhile, Zumbrota only received $5,702 from state government. Even though Plymouth only has twice as many firefighters as Zumbrota, Plymouth received roughly 18 times more state aid. That is wrong.

Due to this large disparity, rural fire departments have an extremely difficult time recruiting people to become firefighters. If there is no incentive, then people will not join. If firefighters cannot be recruited, then our communities are less safe due to this unfair system.

In the previous legislative session, Sen. Mike Goggin and I brought a bill to the Legislative Commission on Pensions to address this issue. Our bill requires the State Auditor to study this problem and find a solution. Fortunately, this legislation was passed as a part of the final pensions bill.

Last week I met with State Auditor Julie Blaha and the Legislative Pension Commission Director to get an update on the study group which will be meeting soon. They will produce their findings for the Minnesota Legislature next year. I am looking forward to ending this imbalance in our rural firefighters’ benefits. 

Vaccine Exemptions 

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced his unconstitutional nationwide vaccine mandate. In response, I called for civil disobedience towards this mandate. The president cannot unilaterally make these demands of you, and I believe it is our moral duty to stand up to tyranny and government overreach.

While I believe that civil disobedience is the route to go, I recognize that a great number of you are facing extremely tough decisions at home. Many have contacted me and are concerned that you will have to choose between keeping your job or making the medical decisions that are right for you. Hopefully, I can provide you with some helpful information. 

First, President Biden’s mandate does include exemptions for medical reasons. If you have medical concerns about getting the vaccine, I encourage you to go to your primary care doctor and discuss these issues. Getting a doctor’s note may be the best way to exercise this option. 

Second, the unconstitutional mandate also includes an exemption for religious reasons. This is a very important and personal topic. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference recently wrote a letter which stated: “Should the Church or any other organization force a person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine? No. Nobody should violate the sanctity of conscience by forcing a person to do something contrary to his or her conscience.”

The entire letter can be viewed here: https://www.wisconsincatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/WI-Catholic-Bishops-Statement-on-COVID-19-Vaccination-and-Protection-of-Conscience-8-20-2021.pdf

Furthermore, some of the vaccine manufacturers have not conclusively stated whether aborted fetal tissue cells were used in the development of their vaccines. I strongly believe in the sanctity of life, and I believe abortion is a sin. These are sincerely held religious beliefs of mine. No one should be forced to take a vaccine if they cannot be sure whether it violates the tenets of their faith. This is a perfectly legitimate religious exemption. 

Additionally, President Biden's mandate also allows people to participate in weekly COVID testing instead of getting a vaccine. This can be burdensome, but it is an option if you have no desire to get the vaccine. Don’t be bullied into making a medical decision you do not want to make. You have options, and your employer should know it!

Finally, if you are concerned that you will be fired for exercising your individual rights, you may want to call your employer’s bluff. Because of President Biden, the economy has ground to a screeching halt. Businesses across the country are unable to hire new employees and find new workers. The hiring market is worse than ever, and every employer is desperate to retain their valuable workers. If you are a good employee, you are too valuable to lose. 

I’ll leave you with one last encouragement: take your rights out for a spin and see how they work!

Steve Drazkowski 

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