Assemblyman Heath Flora returned to a familiar setting Friday morning to discuss his first bill as California’s 12th District representative, sitting down with the Modesto Fire Department to tell them about legislation that would fund a pre-apprenticeship program for underserved youth who hope to one day become firefighters.
The bill, which Flora plans to introduce Monday, is just a small part of a larger job creation package put together by the Assembly Republican Caucus in an effort to stimulate economic growth throughout the state. It will supply $300,000 towards a pre-apprenticeship firefighter program for students in underrepresented and rural communities within the Central Valley, and will allow local control for area fire stations to determine high schools they believe could benefit from the funds.
“It’s not a ton of money, but we don’t need a lot of money to allow some of these kids who may not have the opportunities that middle-class students have to get into this line of work,” said Flora.
The funding will support training courses within selected high schools to prepare students for the rigorous testing and junior college courses they must take on their way to becoming firefighters, as well as other fire-related curriculum. The bill also includes funding for Emergency Medical Technician courses.
“It costs a couple thousand dollars to take an EMT course,” said Flora. “That might be the final straw for someone and they can’t get it done. We will provide funding for that.”
Flora also hopes that providing additional funding for local youth to jumpstart their careers can save them from taking a path filled with gang-related activities that many fall prey to.
“If we can get to them at the high school level and at least give them the path and the opportunity to succeed, then maybe we can take five or 10 percent out of that lifestyle and give them a career,” he said. “That’s money well spent.”
Flora collaborated with the California Professional Firefighters association to draft a bill that would help students become adequately prepared for careers in public safety, which Flora said is a significant first step in improving the CPF’s rapport with state Republicans.
“The CPF hasn’t always had a good relationship with Republicans,” said Flora. “They really wanted to run this bill and really wanted to push this through under a Republican in the Central Valley, so that’s a big deal.”
A former volunteer firefighter, Flora received support from various local public safety organizations throughout his campaign last year. He was happy to give back to one facet of his background with his first bill.
“It’s awesome,” said Flora. “It was either going to be something like this or something with ag, and so either one was going to be perfect for me.”