The number of states without presumptive legislation for fire fighters who contract cancer continues to shrink. In April, Idaho became the 34th state to win presumptive protections.
“I am very proud of our affiliate’s efforts to ensure our members have the protections they need if diagnosed with cancer as the result of on-the-job exposures,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “In some cases, it took our state leaders more than a decade of lobbying to find success, but they never gave up because they know how important these are to the health and welfare of our members and their families.”
With the passage of HB 554, effective July 1, Idaho’s workers compensation law presumes that 11 cancers are job-related for fire fighters. The bill passed the state Senate 33-0 and in the House 65-3, and was signed by Governor Butch Otter at a public ceremony at Fire Station 1 in Coeur D’Alene.
Professional Fire Fighters of Idaho (PFFI) President Thomas Lovell, PFFI Secretary-Treasurer Curtis Smith, PFFI Executive Vice President Rob Shoplock, IAFF 7th District Vice President Kelly Fox and Washington State Council of Fire Fighters President Dennis Lawson, along with members of Coeur D’Alene Local 710 and other Idaho locals, were gathered with the governor and other state and local politicians for the event.
“After 16 years of steady lobbying efforts, we are so pleased to pass this important and necessary law for our members,” says Lovell. “Our members who contract cancer will no longer be faced with the impossible task of pinpointing which incident caused the disease. They will now be able to receive life-saving treatment thanks to workers compensation benefits.”
In Connecticut, HB 5262 – which creates a relief fund for fire fighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer after being exposed to carcinogens on the job was signed into law by Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy on May 6, 2016. This, after the state Senate voted 35-1 and the House voted unanimously in favor of the legislation.
“I am proud of the dedication of all our members in getting the support of our state legislators for this important bill,” says Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association (UPFFA) of Connecticut President Pete Carozza.
HB 5262 creates a relief fund to pay for claims, financed by a one cent fee for 9-1-1 calls – which is expected to generate $400,000 annually.
The fund will be administered by representatives from each of the state’s fire service organizations, who will also be responsible for processing claims.
Elsewhere, legislation that says fire fighters with certain cancers are presumed to have contracted the disease as a result of on-the-job exposure would provide benefits to Ohio fire fighters through the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation. The state Senate voted 32-1 in favor of SB27, which has moved onto the House for consideration.
“We have been working for a long time – and will continue to work until the bill becomes law,” says Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters President Mark Sanders. “Our members deserve the peace of mind of knowing they have immediate access to the workers compensation benefits they need.”
The Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters (KPFF) was successful in lobbying for the passage of Senate Bill 195, which gives families of fire fighters who die from certain cancers a line-of-duty death benefit.
“This bill did not include everything we wanted, but it’s a start and we are confident that we will be able to expand on this to get presumptive cancers covered,” says KPFF President Joe Baer. He says the KPFF hopes to revisit the cancer presumption bill next session. The new law provides $80,000 to the families of fire fighters who die from cancer.
And, the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union (MPFFU) is working to get funding for SB 211, presumptive legislation that passed last year. The bill presumes fire fighters diagnosed with certain cancers got the disease on the job, making the state’s fire fighters eligible for medical coverage through the First Responders Presumed Coverage Reimbursement Fund.
But the state legislature failed to provide funding for the coverage as required as part of the overall state budget. To call attention to this shortfall, more than 150 MPFFU members marched to the Capitol on March 8 to rally in support of funding for the bill. The Senate has since passed SB 802, which provides $3 million in funding for fiscal year 2016-2017. The legislation has moved onto the House for approval.
“We are hopeful that the funding will be allocated as part of this year’s budget,” says MPFFU President Mark Docherty. The full budget is expected to be approved by the end of May.
Presumptive legislation has also been introduced in Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina and West Virginia. Affiliates in those states face tough battles, but will continue efforts to ensure presumptive protections for their members.