Rep. Kathleen Peters is proposing a bill that would give cities and other stakeholders a louder voice at the table when it comes to regulating Pinellas County’s Emergency Medical Services.
“All I’m doing is trying to change the makeup of the voting board, that’s it,” Peters said.
Currently the EMS Authority Board is comprised only of Pinellas County Commissioners. Peters’ bill would expand that to include the county and 18 city and fire districts.
“They would have voting authority of the standards – the county still has ultimate power when it comes to the money,” Peters explained.
The board would be comprised of elected officials only that way the entire board would have voting authority. However the county commission would still dictate the milage rate assessed for EMS and all other fiscal issues associated with the service.
“I think it’s a good bill,” said Lealman district fire chief Jim Millican. “This doesn’t change the county authority level.”
The bill doesn’t require additional staff and would not change county staff.
The Pinellas County legislative delegation voted unanimously to support the EMS bill, but not without some controversy.
“I’m not wild about creating another unit of government and I think this bill still has some issues,” Sen. Jack Latvala said.
Though he supported the bill he cautioned Peters that even one vote against her bill in the Senate would leave it dead in the water.
“We have a long history of angst and antagonism of EMS in this county,” Peters admitted.
And long road it has been. The EMS Authority board was created in 1980 under a Special Act of the Florida Legislature. Through a countywide referendum that overwhelmingly passed, voters approved a tax to fund an emergency medical services system. Later that decade, EMS and fire services were consolidated into a countywide system
More recently the issue has taken a different turn with lawmakers and the county grappling with whether or not to allow fire departments to transport patients to the hospital. The county currently contracts transport to a private company. That issue arose amid concerns over rising transport costs for the county.