House votes to protect Task Force 1 members’ jobs

      When Missouri Task Force 1 was deployed to Louisiana last August in response to Hurricane Ida and in December after tornadoes hit Kentucky team members knew that when they came home they would be able to return to their jobs.  When they were deployed to Joplin after an EF-5 tornado devastated that community, they couldn’t be as certain.  The Missouri House has voted to change that.

Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      When Task Force 1 is deployed out-of-state its members are protected by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).  Deployments in-state aren’t covered by such a law.  House Bill 2193 would change Missouri law to mirror USERRA.  This would mean the Task Force’s more than 200 volunteers’ jobs would be protected no matter where they go.

      “It just makes their employment rights the same if they’re deployed within the State of Missouri or outside the State of Missouri,” said bill sponsor Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville).

      “They have those rights currently in federal law but not in state law,” Boone County Fire District Chief Scott Olsen, who heads up Task Force 1, told the House Committee on Public Safety.  “When we deploy to state disasters we are deployed as a state asset, not as a federal asset.  You cannot deploy as a federal asset in your own state, so we would like to have the same USERRA protections … that our members receive for federal deployments.”

      Last year Toalson Reisch filed a similar proposal that stalled in the Senate after clearing the House 153-0.  This year’s proposal has similar broad support.  Kansas City Democrat Ashley Bland Manlove said in support of HB 2193, “Me being in the National Guard, I heard about guys – and I know this is Task Force 1 but this will make them like the National Guard to where you can’t get fired for a deployment, basically.  That is a thing that has happened.”

      The House voted 150-0 to send HB 2193 to the Senate. 

      Task Force 1 is one of 28 search and rescue teams of its kind and is the only one in Missouri.  Its volunteers come from throughout Missouri.