Apr. 29, 2021

A few weeks ago, wildfires took out hundreds of acres of land in two areas of Ohiopyle State Park. For approximately 12 hours and initially facing dry and windy conditions, 74 crews from departments in Westmoreland and Fayette counties fought and ultimately extinguished the fires. No lives were lost, and no homes destroyed. 

To say we owe these men and women a great debt of gratitude is an understatement. 

What makes it even more amazing to me is the vast majority of the crews fighting these fires are VOLUNTEERS. Once again, they put their own lives in harm’s way to protect our communities. Without fail, they answer our calls for help. And now it’s time for us to answer theirs.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, our fire and ambulance companies were struggling to raise the money they need to keep fire and rescue apparatus working, ensure crews have the best equipment to keep them safe, and generally just keep their doors open. The problem increased exponentially when COVID-19 mitigation efforts forced them to cancel in-person fundraising events, including bingos and other raffles and drawings. 

To their credit, many of these organizations have tried to be creative by moving their fundraising efforts online, but soon, some were notified that current law did not allow them to host these online fundraisers, canceling out the one lifeline they had to continue raising funds to support their vital public safety mission. 

I was proud to work with my dear friend and colleague, the late Rep. Mike Reese, to introduce legislation to answer the call for help from not only our fire and EMS companies, but many social clubs as well that raise funds to support things like scholarships, youth sports and Scouting. 

House Bill 290 would specifically authorize Small Games of Chance licensees to conduct online raffles and drawings, and use a mobile payment service (such as PayPal or Venmo but not credit cards) for payment. Participants would have to be verified as residing within the Commonwealth and be at least 18 years of age. To further aid fundraising for these nonprofits, the bill also was amended to increase individual prize limits to $4,000 and weekly prize limits to $50,000.

This bill passed the House with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority on April 7 and is now awaiting action by the Senate. 

It is my honor to work on legislation to help the hard-working men and women who serve our communities so selflessly, but I also consider it my duty to do so. In 2016, I authored a law (Act 172 of 2016) allowing local municipalities to offer property tax credits for volunteer first responders and have since supported dozens of bills that aim to increase funding and recruiting options for our fire and ambulance companies.

We are blessed with dedicated first responders who stand ready, willing and able to drop whatever they are doing and respond to help a neighbor in need. Whether it’s storms and flooding, fires, traffic accidents or other emergencies, we know we can count on our first responders to be there for us. 

Now, we need to be there for them and make sure they know how much we support and appreciate their commitment to us and our communities. 

Representative Ryan Warner
52nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
RepWarner.com / Facebook.com/RepWarner