Bills to help firefighters diagnosed with cancer receiving strong bipartisan support

A group of Democrats and Republicans have forged a bipartisan group of lawmakers working to craft legislation that addresses the needs of firefighters who have contracted cancer related to their duties.

Several versions of legislation have been drafted and are being negotiated with numerous interests, lawmakers said Friday, Feb. 19.  

“The intent of this bill is to provide our local firefighters who are diagnosed with certain cancers linked to the dangerous job they do with the necessary support and coverage they deserve,” said Rep. Dave Rutigliano of Trumbull, the ranking Republican on the Labor Committee. “I am extremely proud to work with all the stakeholders and help broker a compromise bill everyone can support.

“The fact is reports and studies show if you are a firefighter, you are more likely to develop certain cancers; therefore, there needs to be some type of assistance for them. We are not quite there yet as talks continue,” he added

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides of Derby, who also submitted legislation, said, “We have been working collaboratively and in good faith to reach common ground on some very complex issues dealing with the needs of our firefighters. But we cannot overly burden our towns and cities struggling to balance their budgets in very trying times. Our goal is to find a sensible solution before the end of the legislative session. We are not there yet.’’

“Our working group, which consists of legislators from across the aisle, CCM, COST, municipal leaders and the firefighters unions, having been working hard to find the best possible solution to help our firefighters who have contracted cancer,” said Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington. “Each and every day, firefighters put their lives on the line to protect us without question and we recognize that our great state would not be the same without our career and volunteer firefighters.”

Rep. Cook submitted two bills this session to help firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer resulting from their work. One bill would extend workers’ compensation coverage for these firefighters and the other would allow for short-term and long-term disability coverage for firefighters diagnosed with cancer.  

“Our firefighters do not hesitate to put themselves in danger in order to save someone else’s life. We need to make sure that if they are diagnosed with cancer because of this noble work, they are appropriately compensated,” said Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin/Southington). “Being able to work together on a bipartisan basis is the best way to come up with a solution that will protect the firefighters that work so hard to protect us.”

The workers’ compensation legislation for firefighters diagnosed with cancer as a result of their work has been submitted through the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee and the short-term and long-term disability coverage legislation has been submitted through the Insurance and Real Estate Committee. The Insurance & Real Estate Committee has indicated that Monday, March 15, will be the tentative date for a public hearing on the bill.