LANSING — State Representatives Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) and Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) introduced two bills today that would allow local governments to recover costs for the emergency and rescue services of people who take unnecessary risks during a declared state of emergency. The proposals are a response to reckless behavior undertaken during recent flooding in the Grand Rapids area, including kayaking and the use of jet skis on the swollen river.
“When disaster strikes, our rescue crews and first responders heroically work to save people from harm,” Dillon said. “When people take unnecessary risks, they put themselves in jeopardy and strain our emergency services. People who simply need to be rescued from a flooding home need help. But people who think it’d be fun to act recklessly during an emergency need to take responsibility.”
During the recent flooding in West Michigan, for example, rescue crews were called out to rescue a kayaker who fell from his boat and clung to a tree for survival, canoers who fell into the river and a stranded jet-skier.
Dillon’s bill, House Bill 4856, would allow local governments to recover costs for emergency and rescue services during a declared state of emergency when the recused party has engaged in gross negligence or reckless behavior, even if the local government does not have an ordinance allowing for the recovery of costs. VerHeulen’s HB 4857 outlines what costs local governments can charge for.
“Our local governments work diligently to balance their budgets so they can provide necessary services to the community,” VerHeulen said. “They should not be forced to scramble to find extra funds to cover careless actions by thrill seekers. I hope we can deter this type of behavior in the future, but if it does occur at least local governments know they will be able to recoup their losses.”