State Watch
Alabama latest to outlaw ‘first responders’ fee

By Keith Goble
state legislative editor


The list of states continues to grow where lawmakers have acted to put a stop to having drivers foot the bill for emergency response. Alabama is the latest state to prohibit communities from charging a fee when police and fire personnel respond to wrecks.

Gov. Bob Riley signed a bill into law forbidding the levying of fees for the response of law enforcement to collisions. The protection from fees took effect immediately.

Alabama becomes the 10th state to outlaw the practice. States with bans already in place are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

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

Opponents said the accident-response service fees are needed to stretch already tight budgets. They also don’t want taxpayers to be billed for wrecks they didn’t cause.

Supporters said 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. LL