ST. PAUL -- Rural volunteer ambulance services that have trouble getting personnel to respond to calls would have a couple options under a bill the Minnesota House passed 130-0 Monday and is making progress in Senate committees.

Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, said his bill would allow an ambulance service to contract with a neighboring ambulance organization to provide service when shorthanded. It also would let a first responder with less training than an emergency medical technician drive an ambulance.

"This bill will help to ensure that our communities in rural Minnesota have the capabilities to respond to an emergency situation in a timely manner,” Backer said.

Rep. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, said the bill will help a lot of rural services. "There are ambulance services that during the day are just abandoned because no one (on the service) is in town."

Backer, a Browns Valley volunteer EMT, is a new lawmaker and the unanimous vote came on his first bill.

Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, sponsors the Senate version.