Compromise is a complicated word. When it comes to religious beliefs, honesty or core values, compromise has a negative connotation. It indicates that a person lacks courage, backbone or resolve. However, when it comes to building a consensus to move forward towards a solution, compromise can be very positive. Such is the case with House Bill 146 — this year’s version of the Firefighter Bill.
You may recall the Firefighter Bill of last year. It was a hard-fought bill that saw hundreds of firefighters crowd the capitol and cheer legislators on, as we passed the bill with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, only to have the bill vetoed by the governor a few weeks later.
This is where the positive side of compromise comes in to play.
My colleague, Rep. Micah Gravley, had worked tirelessly on the original bill. After having this bill vetoed by the governor, many of my colleagues would have thrown up their hands and given up, but not Micah. He dug in, got all the parties back to the table and hammered out an impressive compromise that amazed everyone involved.
Last year’s bill was a workman’s comp bill. It would have allowed firefighters to file claims when they were diagnosed with certain forms of cancer that are linked to firefighting. They would have had to prove with the “preponderance of the evidence” that their cancer was caused by their duties as a firefighter. Most likely, these cases would have been tied up in court for years, with no guarantee of success and millions of dollars spent on attorneys.
This year’s bill is an insurance bill. Under the new bill, firefighters diagnosed with certain forms of cancer will receive a guaranteed settlement of $25,000 or $6,250 depending on the severity of the cancer. There is no litigation involved. The benefits, though modest, are immediate upon diagnosis. It covers both career and volunteer firefighters. After twelve months of continuous service or retirement, the firefighter can take the policy with them and get a tax credit for any out-of-pocket premiums. If the severity of the condition requires separation from the department, the firefighter will receive 60% of their salary for three years.
All parties involved in the negotiations of this bill are pleased. Firefighters get a guaranteed benefit for certain forms of cancer, which they did not have before. Cities and counties are spared the potential exponential cost of a workman’s comp lawsuit.
It takes an extraordinary politician with incredible tenacity to think creatively and build consensus to find a solution that is satisfactory to all involved. I am fortunate to have colleagues like Rep. Micah Gravley.