Ambulance Fee Appears Headed for Defeat
County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed ambulance fee does not have enough votes to pass the County Council, vice president Phil Andrews said this afternoon.
Andrews said that he and four of his colleagues on the nine member council would not vote for the bill - which is before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow - in its current form.
Montgomery is one of the only jurisdictions in the Washington region that does not already charge for ambulance transport. Leggett has said that the measure is designed to charge health insurance companies - not residents.
But the county's well-organized volunteer firefighter organization has waged an aggressive public relations campaign against the fee. Opponents fear the charge would discourage residents from calling 911, and council members have received hundreds of phone calls, including from the politically-active senior community of Leisure World.
Yesterday, the volunteer firefighter organization's leaders said they would seek to put the measure to a referendum if it passes the Council.
Andrews confirmed this afternoon that council members Roger Berliner, Duchy Trachtenberg, Don Praisner and Valerie Ervin are opposed to the measure. There is talk around the council building in Rockville that a committee member will probably move to table the bill in committee tomorrow, putting it on hold indefinitely.
"People are very uncomfortable still with what this bill means for the average Montgomery County citizen," Ervin said. "Until we get some assurances that people really aren't going to be billed, we're still uncomfortable."
Leggett's spokesman Patrick Lacefield wasn't immediately available for comment today, but he said yesterday that Leggett's team has "made the case and we've answered all the questions."
Lacefield said Leggett has made clear that he doesn't want to raise taxes again to close a projected budget shortfall, and that the fee is necessary to "meet all the needs of fire and rescue."
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