Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey will no longer serve as the state’s fire marshal next year due to a provision tucked away in the recently passed state budget. And he’s not happy about it.
Since the 1940s, the insurance commissioner served as the state fire marshal. Language in the budget creates a new independent Office of the State Fire Marshal to be housed within the Department of Insurance. The fire marshal would be appointed by the insurance commissioner and would need to be confirmed by the legislature.
Causey, a Republican, criticized the reorganization pushed by the GOP-dominated state legislature in a written statement on Monday.
“I especially detest the way these items were added without input from the department, the State Firefighters Association, county fire marshals or fire chiefs,” he said. “I have yet to meet the first person outside of the General Assembly that favors an independent State Fire Marshal.”
Tim Bradley, executive director of the North Carolina State Firefighters’ Association, told The News & Observer he tried to get the provision removed from the budget.
“None of the fire service agencies that I’m aware of promoted that change, so I’m not really sure why it took place,” he said.
Causey will remain fire marshal until the change goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal is responsible for a variety of safety functions across the state, including providing firefighter training, administering the state building code and overseeing fire safety in state buildings.
Language in the budget also changes the Firefighters’ Health Benefits pilot program, which was established in 2021 to help firefighters diagnosed with cancer. Under the initial pilot, the insurance was administered by a third-party company. The Department of Insurance will now administer the health benefits.
“We’re a little concerned about that as well,” Bradley said. “We don’t want our firefighters who develop cancer waiting on benefits.”
The budget appropriates $5 million to the pilot program for the next two years, stipulating that 5% of that should be used to hire additional staff to move the program in-house.