Governor Signs Legislation to Protect Public Service Workers’ Families

As expected, Governor Doyle recently signed into law two bills that provide benefits to the families of firefighters, police officers and other public service workers who die in the line of duty. The first, Senate Bill 520, requires that municipalities pay health insurance premiums for the families of firefighters who die, or have died, in the line of duty.

“Families of firefighters who have lost their lives shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their health care bills,” Governor Doyle said. “This bill ensures that these families are protected when their loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice.”

The second, Senate Bill 429, establishes that if a firefighter, police officer or other public service worker gets sick or dies from cancer, heart disease or a respiratory impairment, there is a presumption that person’s job duties caused the illness, as long as that person didn’t show any signs of the disease during his or her qualifying medical exam.

While this was a popular bill, it is also an unfunded mandate on local governments. Some small towns and villages will be hard pressed to fund the requirements.