Summary: H.R.1544 — 109th Congress (2005-2006)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (05/12/2005)

Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act of 2005 - (Sec. 3) Amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to set forth provisions governing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant funding for first responders pursuant to the State Homeland Security Grant Program, the Urban Area Security Initiative, and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program. Excludes non-DHS programs, fire grant programs, and the Emergency Management Performance Grant program and Urban Search and Rescue Grants program authorized by specified Federal laws.

Makes eligible for a covered grant any State, region, or directly eligible tribe. Directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to require any State applying for a covered grant to submit a three-year State homeland security plan, to be developed in consultation with local governments and first responders. Precludes a grant award to a State absent approval of such plan. Sets forth minimum contents for grant applications, including the designation of regional and tribal liaisons (if the applicant is a region or directly eligible tribe). Requires regional and tribal applications to be coordinated with State applications.

Requires the Secretary to establish a First Responder Grants Board. Directs the Board to evaluate and annually prioritize pending applications for covered grants based upon the degree to which they would lessen the threat to, vulnerability of, and consequences for persons (including transient commuters and tourists) and critical infrastructure. Requires such evaluation and prioritization to be based upon the Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection's most current risk assessment of terrorist threats against the United States. Requires the Board to coordinate with State, local, regional, and tribal officials in establishing grant criteria and to specifically consider: (1) terrorist threats against specified critical infrastructure sectors; and (2) specified types of threats to such critical infrastructure sectors and to populations in all areas of the United States, urban and rural. Sets forth minimum funding amounts for grants, providing for larger grant awards to applicants that have a significant international land border and/or adjoin a body of water within North America through which an international boundary line extends.

Directs the Secretary to establish a Task Force on Terrorism Preparedness for First Responders to assist the Secretary in updating, revising, or replacing essential capabilities for terrorism preparedness. Requires the Task Force to submit reports on its recommendations to the Secretary within 12 months of establishment and every two years thereafter. Requires the Task Force to ensure that its recommendations are consistent with the preparedness goals or recommendations of the Federal working group established under the Public Health Service Act and to take into account terrorism-related capabilities that State or local officials have determined to be essential and have undertaken since September 11, 2001.

Lists authorized uses of covered grants. Prohibits the use of grant funds to supplant State or local funds, to construct physical facilities, to acquire land, or for any State or local government cost sharing contribution. Authorizes covered grant applicants to petition the Secretary for reimbursement of the costs of any activity relating to prevention of, preparedness for, response to, or recovery from acts of terrorism that is a Federal duty and normally performed by a Federal agency, and that is being performed by a State and/or local government under agreement with a Federal agency. Sets the Federal share of the costs of activities carried out under covered grants at 100 percent of the total for the two-year period following enactment of this Act and at 75 percent thereafter. Requires each covered grant recipient to submit annual reports on homeland security spending. Establishes penalties for States that fail to pass through to local governments, first responders, and other local groups funds or resources, as required by this Act, within 45 days of receipt.

Requires the Secretary to report to Congress on grant program activities annually.

Directs the Secretary, in consultation with specified officials and standards organizations, to promulgate national voluntary consensus standards for grant-funded first responder equipment and training. Requires the coordination of such activities that relate to health professionals with the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

(Sec. 4) States that this Act supersedes a provision of the USA PATRIOT Act that sets forth minimum allocation amounts for domestic preparedness grants.

(Sec. 5) Directs the Secretary to establish within the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) an Office of the Comptroller to oversee the grant distribution process and the financial management of ODP.

(Sec. 6) Requires the Comptroller General to report to Congress on the overall inventory and status of first responder training programs of DHS and other Federal agencies and the extent to which such programs are coordinated.

(Sec. 7) States that a person (including a governmental or other entity) who donates fire control or fire rescue equipment to a volunteer fire company shall not be liable for State or Federal civil damages for personal injuries, property damage or loss, or death caused by the equipment after the donation.

Waives such liability protection if: (1) the person's act or omission causing the injury, damage, loss, or death constitutes gross negligence or intentional misconduct; or (2) the person is the manufacturer of such equipment.

Preempts State law unless such law provides additional protection from liability.