The state Senate passed a bill Thursday requiring all paramedics and emergency medical technicians to be licensed and undergo a criminal background check. The proposal still must clear the Assembly and Gov. Chris Christie before becoming law.

Senators were divided on the issue, with approval coming after a 22-16 vote in Trenton. The Legislature had passed a similar proposal but Christie vetoed the bill earlier this year, citing the unknown financial implications of the measure.

An analyst for the Office of Legislative Services has said new standards would lead to a “probable increase in administrative and training costs” but could not estimate the amount, saying it was unknown how many current emergency responders would meet the proposed new standards.

While some volunteer ambulance squads had initially opposed the bill, saying the proposal would impose a financial burden by requiring them to pay for the cost of licensing and background checks, lawmakers revised the bill to exempt volunteer personnel from paying any fees.

However, the bill is not clear in identifying who would pick up the bill, according to the legislative services analyst, who said the cost may have to be absorbed by the state Department of Health, Division of State Police, local government or squad itself.

Other costs include an addition of approximately $600,000 a year in connection with hiring a new state medical director for emergency medical services and three regional medical directors.

The bill was prompted by concerns emergency personnel are not being screened for criminal backgrounds. In one case, an AtlantiCare emergency medical services worker who allegedly assaulted a patient in Middle Township apparently had been on suspension due to earlier charges of an unrelated assault a couple of years earlier at Jersey City Medical Center.

Contact Hoa Nguyen:

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