After five years of tries, Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, has won near-unanimous approval of his legislation to cover health insurance costs for the families of law enforcement officers who are permanently disabled in the line of duty. The bill, SB 1111, sets up a benefit that’s entirely funded by the officers themselves, and run through the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, at no cost to either the state or local governments. It passed the Senate 34-1 and now heads to the House. Jorgenson told the Senate, “A public safety officer that’s in this situation will qualify for retirement pay. But the cost to replace that insurance is close to 40 percent of their net income. That’s adding an additional tragedy to a tragedy that’s already happened. And let’s not forget that that tragedy happened because those public safety officers are out there protecting us around the clock, 24/7, no matter what the emergency is.”
Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said he was concerned about the precedent the bill creates. “The reason that we have rejected this in the past is because it was difficult to justify special treatment for service in one sector of public employment vs. others,” he said, but the bill’s new approach of having the officers cover the full cost left him “actually quite torn.” The bill would provide a $100,000 lump-sum payment to cover the family health insurance costs. Jorgenson said each time the bill has failed in the past, he’s asked senators who opposed it to help him make it acceptable, and he thanked them all for helping him develop this year’s bill, which has approval from the PERSI board.