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MassCops Member
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
November 8, 2005

LANCASTER, Mass. --Gov. Mitt Romney signed a law Tuesday guaranteeing death benefits to the families of volunteer or part-time public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty.

The law was introduced after the town of Lancaster voted to deny a pension to Marty McNamara, a call firefighter who was killed in an apartment house fire in 2003.

The families of full-time police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty are eligible for lump-sum death benefit payments from the state and federal governments, but McNamara's widow and three children were not because of his part-time status.

Under the new law's provisions, Massachusetts communities will have the option of providing an insurance policy that makes a one-time payment of $500,000; of buying an annuity that annually pays between two-thirds and 100 percent of a first-year police or fire salary; or of buying an insurance policy providing an annuity with the same payout. Part-time police officers, firefighters and EMTs are covered by the law.

In addition, the law provided a $650,000 annuity to McNamara's family.

"While there can never be a silver lining when a life of a firefighter is lost in the line of duty, it is comforting to the families of call and volunteer firefighters across the state to know that from this day forward, if a similar tragedy occurs, the community will protect the firefighter's family," said a statement issued by State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan.

About half of the state's 20,000 firefighters operate on a call or part-time basis. Since 1980, seven have been killed in the line of duty.

The McNamara case gained widespread attention when Lancaster residents defeated a tax override that would have provided his family with a pension. Voters subsequently agreed to provide the family with health insurance.
 

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Chapter 90 Enforcer
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About time! This is awesome! The Lancaster Residents that voted against providing the pension for McNamara's family are a disgrace to society and public safety personnel. Now this law will force these idiots to provide the McNamara's what they should have had a long time ago.
 

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JoninNH said:
Curious, are auxiliaries covered under this law?
I would assume so because it says volunteer in the article but not positive I remember some one say at a meeting I was at that we were covered but again don't quote me on that.
 

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Its amazing how the asshole residents in Lancaster actually voted against the widow and her childeren in getting the benefits. I could never do that, people just piss me off sometimes.
 

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IIRC, something like this (legally) has to be "accepted" (voted on at Town Meeting, Town/City Council, etc.) in order to be binding on the individual cities/towns. I've been fairly involved in town government for the past ~30 years and that is what I recall being told . . . if it is an "unfunded mandate" (state dictates, but the cities/towns must pay to implement), it must be accepted in each city/town or it is not binding on them.

Thus, if my assumption is indeed true, I wouldn't count on some communities jumping on this bandwagon.

When I joined the PD as a Special PO (back in 1978), the chief leveled with us:
- if we were hurt/killed in the performance of our duties, the town would disown us! No payments of any kind would be made. [Ironically the only KIA in this town was a Special/Aux PO way back 40-50 years ago, struck and killed while directing traffic.]
- if we made any arrests, we'd have to go to court on our own time and the PD would prevent us from even getting a witness fee or mileage! [We had full sworn police powers, this was there way of telling us not to use them.]

Furthermore when one local FT patrol officer jumped in the lake (dressed in uniform) to attempt to save a drowned child (in advance of the police boat arriving), he lost his wedding ring. He went to Town Meeting after being denied compensation ($400) for the lost ring. The town's position (affirmed by Town Meeting) was Tough Shit!

When a local FT PO was called up to serve in the sandbox a few years ago, he was denied his raise, longevity pay, and some other benefit (don't recall what it was) that amounted to ~$3K due to his being "absent". The town screwed him, the union didn't help him and it was the subject of a longish newspaper article (nobody denied the facts).

I don't expect town like the above to adopt anything that will cost them money in case a volunteer gets hurt/killed!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
LenS - The Senate wanted an opt out clause - but this was overturned beofre the Govenor signed. This is an unfunded mandate. See story below


All towns to pay in Bay State bill for death benefits to firefighters

By REBECCA DEUSSER, Sun Statehouse Bureau






BOSTON -- Communities with call or volunteer public safety officers will likely not have a chance to opt out of a proposed state law requiring death benefits for those volunteers.

On Thursday senators went back on their vote to add an opt-out clause to the McNamara bill, named after Lancaster call firefighter Martin McNamara who died while fighting a house fire in 2003.

The bill also includes a $650,000 death benefit to the McNamara family.

Abandoning the opt-out puts the House and Senate in agreement on the bill.

“Now that there's a mandate, there is a cost passed on to all communities instead of just paying for it when there are tragedies, and they are rare,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Beckwith said communities should have the right to decide locally whether to provide a death benefit, or the state should pay for it.

Some small communities have volunteer or call firefighters because they cannot afford a full-time department. The new law, which is likely to pass, would require towns to purchase a life insurance policy or one of two types of annuities for their volunteer public safety officers.

But legislators who wanted the law to be mandatory said the cost to towns would be minimal.

“The cost is pretty insignificant compare to the cost for a full-time department, just several thousand dollars,” said state Sen. Robert Antonioni, D-Leominster.

State Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, said an unfunded mandate is necessary for “extremely rare” situations.

“We only use it when it's highly justified, and in this case I think it is,” Brewer said.

Ann Dufresne, spokeswoman for Senate President Robert Travaglini, acknowledged the unfunded measure will cause concerns. “It's an issue that will not go away, and this is the first round,” Dufresne said. “We want to make sure municipalities have the resources they need to make sure emergency responders can work efficiently.” The bill will likely make its way to Gov. Mitt Romney's desk soon, but Romney spokeswoman Laura Nicoll would not say whether he will sign the bill without the opt-out clause.
 

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Well, I hope it goes thru without the opt-out clause, those that volunteer deserve it! Many towns just use and abuse the volunteers as a way to "cheap out" . . . I know that from personal experience.
 
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