Rep. Tubbs Jones pushes fire bills

Thursday, March 1, 2007

WASHINGTON--Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) is hopeful that fire-safety legislation she reintroduced in January will receive favorable attention from the new Congress.
"Every time we introduce it, it gets more interest. When it gets to be the third or fourth time, we start to get more traction," said Nicole Williams, communications director for Tubbs Jones.
The congresswoman reintroduced three pieces of legislation. Two will need approval by both houses of Congress before becoming law. The College Fire and Prevention Act, originally co-sponsored by Re. Ed Whitefield (R-KY), would establish a demonstration incentive program administered by the U.S. Department of Education to install fire-sprinkler and -prevention equipment in qualified student housing. This is the fourth consecutive year the bill has been introduced.
The second bill is called the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, which would allow tax deductible funds given to fraternities and sororities to be used for infrastructure improvements, including fire-safety equipment. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is the original co-sponsor of the bill.
The third bill, which establishes September as Campus Fire Safety Month, encourages colleges and universities to educate their students, including those who live off campus, about fire safety and to evaluate the adequacy of fire-safety systems in housing. The bill was unanimously adopted on Sept. 27, 2006, but must be reintroduced each session.
Fire safety on colleges and universities is a particular interest of Rep. Tubb Jones, said Williams. More than 99 people have died in student housing fires nationwide since Jan. 2000, she said, and Ohio has had 16 deaths, more than any other state.
The congresswoman's district encompasses several universities, including Case Western, David N. Meyers University and Cleveland State University. In addition, Williams noted, traditionally black universities across the country often have older infrastructure and need to upgrade their life-safety equipment.
The two bills would allow "those schools to get funding to maintain their historic value, but update the buildings and keep students safe," Williams said.