Bill to increase first responders’ part-time in small townships passes in Ohio House

The Ohio House has voted in favor of legislation introduced by a Clark County representative that would temporarily increase the number of part-time hours for first responders employed by small townships.

The legislation will now go to the Ohio Senate for full approval.

The bill aims to temporarily increase the limit of part-time hours those employees are allowed to work from 28 hours to 38 hours per week. Current Ohio law prohibits those part-time employees from working more than 1,500 hours annually, roughly 28 hours per week.

Traditionally, if an employee works more than 1,500 hours a year, they are considered full-time and eligible for benefits.

The bill would increase the limit of part-time hours until December 2023. After that, the 1,500 hour limit would go back in place.

State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, who introduced the legislation in February, said that the need for this increase relates to staffing issues within local law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire departments that have resulted from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Supports of the bill said that the need for this legislation arose from persistent staffing issues within local public safety agencies serving small townships that has resulted in increased overall response times and large spans of unstaffed hours.

“Proponents of this bill have stated that they have dedicated first responders ready and willing to help,” Koehler said. “Part-time employees have a maximum number of hours they can work in a year and with our current shortages those hours are fading fast. We must intervene to help keep our communities safe by changing current law that prevents first responders from continuing to protect Ohioans.”

The option that the bill presents to small townships in the state would only be available to those with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees. That measure would factor in both full-time and part-time workers already employed by those townships.

That stipulation was added in order to remain in compliance with federal Affordable Care Act requirements. The bill will not impact collective bargaining agreements.

“Our first responders work tirelessly to protect our communities,” Koehler previously stated when the bill was first introduced in the Ohio House.

“If this issue is not addressed, the part-time employees covering for current absentees will reach their maximum allowable hours by September of this year. The numbers don’t lie. For the safety of our communities, Ohio needs to be proactive,” he added.

The bill has an emergency clause, meaning that if it passes in the senate, it will be effective immediately.

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