The House Ways and Means Committee has just opened its afternoon session. We are in their hearing room at the State Legislature with a huge turnout – triple digits for sure – to show support for one of the bills on the agenda, EHB 1679, which would cover catastrophically injured public-safety personnel and their families with benefits – the benefits that are being lost by Officer Jason McKissack, unable to return to work since being attacked while on a West Seattle call a year and a half ago. We will report from the hearing as we can – you also can watch on TVW cable/online. We’re sitting next to Seattle Police Guild reps who say they’ve heard from a lot of people supporting the bill who heard about it through WSB; legislators reportedly have been getting plenty of calls too.
3:57 PM: That’s the committee – back row in red is West Seattle Rep. Eileen Cody. Officials of other state public-safety unions and advocacy groups are speaking right now. Before them, a pension-fund official who spoke of how the bill was changed after it failed to win approval last year; now the funds bear the brunt of the costs. They’re all also talking about how rare “catastrophic disability” really is.
4:04 PM: Rich O’Neill of the Seattle Police Guild has just told the committee the story of what happened to Officer McKissack, who is here today and planning to testify. He concluded with a plea to the committee to “help the officer” – a call that is taken deeply seriously when it goes out over the police radio – “be their backup, pass this bill.”
(From left, Kim and Jason McKissack, Renee Maher)
4:20 PM: Jason and Kim McKissack both have just testified – Kim, tearfully, talking about how their lives were changed, and how can you make the choice between food/clothing and medical insurance? (video added 6:09 pm)
She also said her husband still wants nothing more than to “go out and get the bad guys … but he can’t.” Now, also emotionally, law enforcement advocate Renee Maher is speaking, sitting next to the McKissacks; she is the widow of Federal Way Officer Patrick Maher, killed in the line of duty in the early 00s.
4:23 PM: The public hearing has just concluded. The committee is moving on to testimony on other bills, but first, they asked everyone from public safety who came here for support to stand – those who stood were applauded by the rest of the room. We’ll add a few photos in a moment, and video in a bit. We also will be checking to find out what happens next – when there might be a decision on whether to schedule a vote on the bill.
8:48 PM NOTE: We’re told the bills that had public hearings today are all tentatively scheduled for discussion in “executive session” tomorrow – that’s where legislators talk about which bills are ready to potentially come up with votes. So we’ll keep an eye on it (which you can do through this link) for followups.