Families of slain firefighters, police will benefit from a new bill passed by the House

The families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty will be able to keep their health insurance under a bill approved 40-0 by the Alaska House on Monday.

“Police are the exoderm of society. They are the outward skin that protects all of us,” said Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, speaking before the vote.

House Bill 23, created by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, now advances to the Senate for consideration. If approved and signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker, HB 23 would create a survivors’ fund filled by donations and appropriations.

“Society has a special debt to the police and firefighters who face danger every time they go to work,” Josephson said in a prepared statement. “At the very least, we owe them the peace of mind that their families will be cared for if the worst happens.”

Once the survivors’ fund is created, it would pay health insurance premiums for the children and spouses of police and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty. Children would be covered through age 26, and spouses would be covered until they are eligible for Medicare or until they have alternate experience.

Corrections officers are included in the proposal, but firefighters outside the state’s Public Employees Retirement System are not.

Under an amendment proposed by Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, Alaskans will be able to donate to the survivors’ fund through the Pick. Click. Give. program.

HB 23 is the latest iteration of an idea that arose after the 2014 slaying of two Alaska State Troopers in Tanana. After Scott Johnson and Gabe Rich were shot and killed, then-Gov. Sean Parnell acted administratively to continue the health insurance policies of their families.

Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, introduced a bill on Jan. 21, 2015 to make that policy state law, but the Legislature failed to approve the idea in the 2015 and 2016 regular and special sessions.

Millett and Josephson introduced identical measures this year, and Josephson’s advanced.

Late Monday, the House reconvened to begin debate on amendments to the fiscal year 2018 budget. The Republican House Minority was expected to offer more than 230 amendments to the budget approved by the coalition House majority in a process lasting multiple days.

“This is Amendment No. 1,” said Rep. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, shortly after 5:15 p.m. “We have a long way to go.”


Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 419-7732.


 

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