State House passes bill that will support fallen first responders’ families.

September 16, 2016
Sheriff Kim Cole

Sheriff Kim Cole

#MichiganLegislature #MasonCountyPress

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LANSING — The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this week that will provide benefits for dependents of Michigan’s first responders who die in the line of duty. Senate Bill 218 was introduced in the Michigan Senate in March 18, 2015 by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City). The bill would amend Public Act 46, also known as the Public Safety Officers Benefit Act by providing compensation and other benefits to dependents of public safety officers who are killed or who are permanently and totally disabled in the line of duty. The act would also create a public safety officers benefit fund, prescribe the duties and responsibilities of certain state officers; and to make an appropriation. The benefits would have a five year limit.

The bill was passed in the Senate 117 to 37 on April 29, 2015 and sent over to the House on April 29, 2015 where it was referred to the House appropriations committee where it sat until it was voted on by the House Wednesday, and passed 97-7. It will now be sent back to the Senate for final approval.

“ “I think it’s outstanding our legislators have decided to stand and support our local heroes by moving on this bill,” said Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole. “By doing so they are telling those who answer our calls for help that they have their backs if tragedy strikes.  I Would personally like to thank representatives Ray Franz and Jon Bumstead for their support.”

Franz is an Onekama Republican who represents the 101st District, which consists of Mason, Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau counties. Bumstead is a Republican from Newaygo who represents the 100th District, which includes Oceana, Newaygo and Lake counties. He is also vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Both voted in favor of the bill.

“Our local first responders are the foundation of our community’s health and safety,” said Rep. Franz. “Many in the legislature argued that those firefighters and police officers are not state employees, but I believe we owe it to them to make sure their families are taken care of if they lose their lives serving the citizens of this state.”

“The public safety personnel of this community — and every community in this state — put their lives on the line every day,” Sheriff Cole said. “A good portion of these people are essentially volunteers who fight fires, respond to vehicle crashes and medical calls just to help out their fellow citizens. Compensating families in the case of serious injury or death is the least the people of the State of Michigan can do for these folks.”

Currently, the Michigan State Police is the only agency that provides such benefits for its personnel, under its collective bargaining contracts.

“I think it is great that the state police troopers receive this benefit,” Cole said. “They are very much deserving of it. But, as it stands right now, if there is a car crash in Mason County and an state trooper, sheriff’s deputy and firefighter respond and all three were to be killed or seriously injured, only the state trooper’s family would receive benefits from the state. These folks equally serve the people and equally deserve benefits. Now, with the passage of the bill in the House, we are a step closer to seeing every first responder treated equal in this state.”

The bill is estimated to cost the state about $58,000 a year.