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Reps. Spohnholz and Kawasaki Call for Lawmakers to Honor Fallen Heroes by Supporting Their Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2016

Juneau – Common sense legislation to honor Alaska’s first responders and their families is stuck in committee in both the Alaska House of Representatives and the Alaska Senate.  House Bill 4002 and Senate Bill 4002 would allow the State of Alaska to continue insurance coverage for spouses and dependents of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

“Every day, the men and women who protect us put their lives on the line.  We should honor that commitment and sacrifice by ensuring that their families are provided with the same health coverage they would receive if their loved one were still alive,” said Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), whose father served 20 years as an officer with the Anchorage Police Department.  “I find it unconscionable that six months into this session this issue has not yet been resolved.  There are some huge issues before lawmakers that demand time and deliberate consideration.  However, this issue is simple and, quite frankly, it’s the right thing to do.  Pass the bill already.”

HB 4002 and SB 4002 are based on legislation introduced last year that failed to advance completely through the legislative process in both the House and Senate despite widespread support from lawmakers and extensive public testimony.  The original legislation was filed last year after the families of two Alaska State Troopers murdered in the line of duty were informed that their healthcare coverage as part of the state’s health plan would end.  Since that time, the families have received healthcare coverage, but only on a temporary basis with the cost being picked up by the Governor’s office.

“Those killed in the line of duty serving and protecting the people of Alaska deserve to have that sacrifice honored by more than just words.  It is long past time for us as lawmakers to fix this flaw in the law that allows families to continue to get healthcare if the employee retires but not if they are gunned down in the line of duty,” said Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks).  “As soon as the Majority leadership moves the bill, I will cast an enthusiastic yes vote.  It is time to put these bills on the floor for a vote.”

HB 4002 is currently in the House Finance Committee after being waived out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Monday.  SB 4002 is stalled in the Senate State Affairs Committee, which has yet to hold a hearing on the bill.  The fiscal note attached to the bills anticipates a cost to the State of Alaska of $174,000 in FY 2017.

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