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Mass. Senate approves bill to benefit call firefighters and auxiliary police
By Noah R. Bombard, Bolton Common - Harvard,MA,USA
Friday, October 7, 2005

A small discrepancy and the governor's signature is all that stands now between a widowed family and $650,000.
The Senate approved 39 to 0 a bill to provide death benefits to call firefighters last week. The approval brought applause from the Senate balcony, but a slight difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill leave supporters wondering "what's next?"
In addition to providing death benefits to call firefighters and auxiliary police officers, both versions of the bill would grant a death benefit of $650,000 to the widow and three children of Martin McNamara, a Lancaster call firefighter who was killed in a Mill Street blaze in 2003.
"We can give justice now to the widow of Martin McNamara," Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, said during the bill's reading last week.
About 1,000 firefighters from across the state attended McNamara's funeral, as did Gov. Mitt Romney. If the differences in the House and Senate bill can be ironed out and signed by the governor, it will ensure the families of call firefighters and other on-call public safety officials would have a financial net should their spouse die in the line of duty.
The only difference between the House and Senate versions is an opt-out amendment. Following the House's unanimous vote, the Senate amended the bill, giving cities and towns the option of opting out of the measure with a Town Meeting vote.
That discrepancy, however, will have to be resolved before the bill can move forward.
"I would not describe it as a deal-breaker, Rep. James Eldridge, D-Acton, said, but the amendment that was added to the Senate version I think did not do a service to the intent of guaranteeing there is a death benefit. I would hope at the very least it would be very hard for a town to go to Town Meeting to say 'we're not going to provide this benefit.'"
According to Eldridge, about two-thirds of the towns in the commonwealth have some sort of death benefit for on-call public safety officers, but the standards vary.
"Sooner or later another call firefighter will pay the ultimate sacrifice," Brewer said during last week's Senate session. "We owe it to those heroes, many who are seated in the balcony. You are the minutemen of our generation and we owe you a round of applause."
McNamara's death in 2003 resulted in a Lancaster Town Meeting vote to provide his family with a $650,000 annuity. The measure failed by 18 votes. Voters later approved health benefits for the family.
"The tragedy was compounded. That vote split the town in half," said Sen. Robert Antonioni. "That was a tragedy and it has been doubled by our failure to provide for the widow and three small children."
Eldridge said he believes the bill will go forward and will not die in committee.
"I don't think that will happen, because I think you'll find almost any bill that reaches conference committee does pass into law," Eldridge said.
The State House News Service contributed to this report.
 

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Retired Fed, Active Special
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Hey! thats a good piece of legislation. I don't think many out here will think it isn't.
 

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It's a great idea and long overdue!

However, I seem to recall reading that the individual towns/cities either have to "opt in" or they are allowed to "opt out". I fully expect that my town will NOT opt-in (or they will try to opt-out).

Back in 1978 when I joined our Special Police, our chief told me that if we ever got injured/killed, the town would NOT pay a dime for medical/disability/death. From their other actions when a Special made an arrest (if we did this and went to court, the PD would prevent us from even getting a witness fee or mileage for being in court/taking a day off our regular job), I suspect that they would stand in the way of anyone's family collecting on the national (or was it state) payment for the death of an officer.
 
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