NASHVILLE — The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved two bills this week aiding the families of law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty. Senate Bill 1059, sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), calls for a $250,000 death benefit from the State of Tennessee for any firefighter, volunteer rescue worker, or law enforcement officer who is killed in the line of duty. The Helping Emergency Response Officials (HERO) Act would significantly increase the current lump sum of $25,000 paid at the time of death to a $250,000 annuity with the first responder’s estate receiving annual installments of $50,000 per year.
“This legislation calls for something that no one wants to have, a death benefit to the hero’s family should the first responder be killed in the line of duty,” said Senator Bowling. “These families have lost more than a loved one. They’ve lost income that the individual was providing to that family. This legislation will provide them more time and resources to stabilize their family after the tragic loss.”
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch testified in favor of the bill saying, “For too many years in Tennessee we have overlooked the families of those first responders who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. These heroes run toward danger when others run away… While we can never repay the debt that they create through their actions, we can address the challenge that the family will be burdened with due to their loss.”
The second bill authorizes the State Insurance Committee to offer or continue to provide health insurance benefits to the surviving spouse and children of a first responder killed in the line of duty. Under Senate Bill 822, sponsored by Deputy Speaker Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), the first responder’s family and unborn child may receive health insurance benefits from the employing agency for up to two years.
“A community’s loss of a first responder is certainly tragic, and the uncertainty that faces the family can be paramount,” said Senator Haile. “What this bill allows is that the state would reimburse local government that provides health insurance benefits according to this section.”
Finally, the State Senate voted unanimously this week to designate May 14-20, 2017, as Police Memorial Week. Senate Joint Resolution 115, sponsored by Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), was introduced to “honor the brave and valiant service rendered by the many law enforcement officers through Tennessee.”
Bailey said, “When one of our law enforcement officers doesn’t make it home to his or her family, we owe them a perpetual debt of gratitude and remembrance. By pausing for a statewide remembrance, we will give our fallen law enforcement officers the prayerful respect and dignity that they so deserve.”