JUNEAU, AK — Although the budget has dominated the first days of the session, lawmakers are pledging quick action on legislation that guarantees benefits to the families of peace officers killed in the line of duty.
Legislators in the House and Senate either have introduced or are drafting legislation to create an official method for providing health insurance to families of killed law enforcement officers and firefighters, a prominent issue in the 2016 elections.
Currently, families of fallen peace officers and firefighters rely on administrative action to cover their insurance on an uncertain, year-to-year basis. Former Gov. Sean Parnell did so for the families of Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Scott Johnson and trooper Gabe Rich, who were killed in Tanana while responding to a call, and Gov. Bill Walker has continued the practice.
The Fairbanks City Council passed its own resolution to extend benefits to the family of Fairbanks police Sgt. Allen Brandt last fall.
Legislators attempted to create a coverage program in state law last session, but were unable to find traction during the tense final days.
It’s now a top priority for the new bipartisan House majority. Rules Committee Chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, said during the majority’s first news conference that the survivor benefits will be one of the first bills before the House for a vote.
“There was a bill last year that managed to get caught up in end-of-session problems that was to be providing medical insurance for the survivors of policemen and firefighters that were killed in the line of duty,” she said. “We’re hoping to see that bill on the floor soon and over to the Senate.”