On Thursday, February 11, 2010 the Labor Committee "Reconsidered" it's Committee Amendment on LD 1558 and voted out a "Unanimous Ought To Pass" report. This is good news for the bill "An Act Regarding Accidental Death Benefits for Beneficiaries of Deceased Firefighters" as it will now move over to the State House for consideration in the Senate and then the House.
During last Monday's Labor Committee Work Session, serious discussions were held with members from both political sides of the Labor Committee, the Maine Municipal Association representative and leadership from the PFFM. The conversations were open and frank and at the end of a long afternoon an acceptable bi-partisan agreement was reached between the members of the Labor Committee and the PFFM. Both Democrat and Republican committee members worked in good faith with the PFFM trying to find workable language all could agree upon. The Committee Amendment was moved with a 12-1vote on that day. The bill was brought up again in Work Session on Thursday, 2/11/2010, and asked to be "Reconsidered" and this time the vote was unanimous in favor of passage.
The essence of the bill is that if a qualifying member of MainePERS dies as result of injury or disease as a result of cardiovascular or pulmonary disease in the course of employment as an employee, within 30 days of the death MainePERS will award the beneficiary of that firefighter an Accidental Death Benefit. If the death occurs 30 days out to 6 months there is a rebuttable presumption that the death occurred as a result of employment as an employee.
MainePERS will be working on Rules surrounding the rebuttable presumption and will be reviewed by the Labor Committee. In order for the firefighter to be eligible for this provision they must have participated in fire fighting, or training or drill that actually involved fire fighting. This language largely mirrors existing Workers Compensation statute for rebutable presumption involving cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. The bill is also retroactive to November 1, 2004.
The legislation will shortly be reported out of committee and then move onto the Senate and then House for consideration. We need to ensure that we follow through as we have done with other bills in the past. There are no guarantees and we will need to work hard to ensure final passage. We will be calling upon all of you to contact your Legislators about LD 1558 and also asking you to once again come to Augusta in support of this legislation.
Thanks to all our members who have attended the Public Hearing and Work Sessions up to this point. The presence of PFFM members in the committee room was instrumental in our success so far and shows the importance of this bill to the Labor Committee members. We will update you as we move forward and with requests for your help. Please follow updates on our web site for talking points and other important information on this legislation.
Professional Fire Fighters of Maine