ORIGINAL 1:55 PM REPORT: We have been following the progress in the Legislature of EHB 1679, the bill that is meant to fix the situation that has left catastrophically injured public-safety personnel and their families without health coverage if they cannot return to work. First, it was heard in the state House Ways and Means Committee (WSB coverage here), and passed the House unanimously; then last Monday, it was heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee (WSB coverage here). But that committee has to bring it up for a vote to get it to the floor – and Renee Maher, law-enforcement advocate/lobbyist and an officer’s widow, e-mailed us today to say EHB 1679 is in danger of NOT coming up for a vote in Senate Ways and Means. The Senate is also where a version of this bill died last year – before the well-publicized case of Jason McKissack, who was on duty as a West Seattle-based Seattle Police officer, trying to break up a fight a year and a half ago, when he was kicked in the face repeatedly and suffered brain damage. He is unable to return to work and received a letter from the city last month saying his employment was ended; he and his wife testified in the House hearing, but he was not well enough to attend last Monday’s Senate hearing. From Renee Maher:
Somehow EHB 1679 – the Jason McKissack Act – has slipped through the cracks in the Senate Ways and Means committee. We need to get the word out to people to ask them to contact Senate Ways and Means Chair Margarita Prentice, 360-786-7616, and ask her to vote EHB 1679 out of the committee. The deadline is Monday!
The full list of Ways and Means members – with each name linking to the senator’s site and contact info – is here. Among them, West Seattle’s 34th District State Senator Joe McDermott, who had said he’d do everything he could to move this bill this year; we have messages out to him – the committee is in session again today, though this bill is not on its published agenda.
ADDED 4:14 PM: The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild has sent a news release with an open plea to the public to help rescue this bill.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild and the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs need the public’s assistance. Engrossed House Bill 1679, also known as the “Jason McKissack Act”, which would provide health insurance to Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty faces the possibility of not passing. This bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously on February 3, 2010. On February 22, 2006, testimony regarding the bill was heard in front of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Officer McKissack’s wife Kim testified along with the President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the President of COMPAS and the Executive Director of COMPAS, stating the importance of this bill, and how the state needs to take care of their law enforcement officers and firefighters, should they ever become catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
If this bill is not voted out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee by THIS Monday, March 1, 2010, the bill will die. Currently the bill IS NOT SET to be voted on, on Monday.
The news release continues after the jump:
This bill helps to fill a hole that Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters in this state face. Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters put their lives on the line everyday and it is imperative that should they be catastrophically disabled in the line of duty they and their families should be provided medical insurance. Currently line of duty death survivors receive medical benefits if their Law Enforcement Officer or Fire Fighter gives their life in the line of duty. This is not the case for a Law Enforcement Officer or Fire Fighter who manages to survive but is catastrophically disabled. We should never have a situation where a Law Enforcement Officer or Fire Fighters family is better off financially if they had been killed in the line of duty rather than be catastrophically disabled.
Sergeant Rich O’Neill, President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild Stated “police officers are taught to never use the word “help” unless it is absolutely necessary. When a call of “help the officer” goes out, every officer responds immediately, as it is the most critical call there is, and states that an officer is in need of immediate assistance. Right now, we are asking the Senate and the citizens of the great State of Washington for help. Please help our Officers and Firefighters.”
We are asking that everyone dedicate 3 minutes of their life to calling or emailing their Senator and asking for this bill to be voted out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Please either call or email your Senator directly, or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 from 8am to 8pm and ask them to support Engrossed House Bill 1679, the “Jason McKissack Act”.
7:06 PM: Sen. McDermott has posted this comment:
Indeed this is the time for action. The “Jason McKissack Act” — House Bill 1679 — is in the Ways & Means Committee. Monday is the deadline for House Bills to be voted out of Senate fiscal committees. I have spoken to Senator Prentice, the Chair of the committee, and Senator Brown, the Senate Majority Leader, today reminding them again of the compelling testimony we heard at the hearing and underscoring the need to move the bill out of committee. The Firefighters have also been working the issue today (the Senate adjourned for the day just after 5 pm this evening) as well.
Continued positive encouragement is always welcome in a legislative environment. The Ways & Means Committee meets at 1:30 on Monday.